Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

Imports Lull Continues at Port of Long Beach

Mike Schuler
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December 14, 2022

Containerized imports through the Port of Long Beach fell by nearly a third in November amid reduced orders from retailers, full warehouses and shifting trade to East and Gulf coast ports, the port reported Wednesday.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 588,742 TEU last month, down 21% from November 2021, with imports sliding a precipitous 28.4% to 259,442 TEUs—the lowest for the month dating back to 2011. Empty containers moving through the port also decreased 25.2% to 204,313 TEUs.

On the other hand, exports increased 13.8% to a nation-leading 124,988 TEUs.

“While some import volume has shifted to other gateways, we are confident that a good portion of it will return to the San Pedro Bay,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “As we move toward normalization of the supply chain, it’s time to refocus our efforts on engaging in sustainable and transformative operations that will secure our place as a leader in trans-Pacific trade.”

After a strong start to the year, imports through the Port of Long Beach have fallen below last year’s levels since July. During the first 11 months of this year, the Port of Long Beach has moved 8,589,553 TEUs down just 0.5% from the same period in 2021 when the port had its strongest year on record.

Slowing trade has meant some improvement in reducing the number of long-dwelling containers at the San Pedro Bay port complex. In fact, long-dwelling container have been reduced by more than 90% since the end of October 2021, when the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles initiated a Congestion Dwell Fee—which so far has not been assessed.

There has also been good progress made on the San Pedro Bay containership backup, which has yet to return after falling to zero ships waiting towards the end of November—down from a record high of 109 ships in early January.

“We appreciate the exceptional work of the dockworkers who moved containers off the docks and helped us speed the flow of cargo during an unprecedented surge over the last two years,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman. “Their hard work ensures shelves are stocked and consumers can purchase gifts during the holiday season.”

Next door, the Port of Los Angeles reported a similar cargo decline in November.

Meanwhile, total U.S. container imports fell a lesser (but still significant) 19.4% last month compared to November 2021, according to a report this week by Descartes Systems.

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