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Image courtesy Port of Los Angeles

Import Surge Continued at Port of Los Angeles in August

Mike Schuler
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September 16, 2021

Another gangbuster month on the books for the Port of Los Angeles.

The United States’ top port for freight from Asia reported handling 954,377 TEUs in August, just shy of last August’s record of 961,833 TEUs. 

Strong American consumer demand has continued unabated for more than a year, evidenced by the steady amount of cargo streaming through the port.

Although loaded imports slipped 6% year-over-year as American retailers began ramping up orders to restock low inventory, August 2021 loaded imports still hit 485,672 TEUs, the most since April. Loaded exports decreased 23% to 101,292 TEUs compared to the same period last year.

Empty containers climbed to 367,413 TEUs, a jump of 17% compared to last year due to the continued demand in Asia. This marked the highest number of empty containers the Port has handled in a single month, eclipsing the 361,359 TEUs processed in May 2021.

Eight months into the 2021 calendar year, overall cargo volume is 7,273,053 TEUs, an increase of 30% compared to 2020.

Forecast data indicates “significant volume headed our way” through the end of this year and into 2022, says Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. This import surge has longshoremen working at a feverish pace. “Port-related employment is robust, with longshore shifts up 32% compared to last year,” said Seroka.

“To better manage this record cargo, the Port of Los Angeles is co-hosting roundtable discussions with dozens of public and private stakeholders,” Seroka added. “We’re pursuing short- and longer-term strategies with our partners in order to scale up to meet increased demand.”

The strong monthly volumes come as a record number of ships are currently in port and waiting off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Marine Exchange of Southern California on Wednesday counted a record 146 ships in port between Los Angeles/Long Beach, including 92 containerships. Another 21 containerships were in drift areas off the coast, another all-time record. Records have now been broken daily since last Friday.

According to the National Retail Federation, growth of retail imports unexpectedly slowed in August thanks global pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, as double-digit growth in imports slipped into single digits. The organization previously predicted retail imports through the nation’s top container ports would hit all-time records in August, but the forecast was later revised down to reflect issues ranging from port closures in Asia to ships lined up waiting to dock at U.S. ports.

“With two dozen ships waiting as long as a week or more at anchor to unload at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recently, some cargo anticipated in August may have been delayed into September. And with some sailings from Asia delayed by COVD-19 disruptions there, some cargo could arrive later in the fall than previously expected,” the NRF said.

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