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Imports Sustain Surge at Port of Los Angeles as Exports Continue to Crash

Mike Schuler
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August 17, 2021

More than a year after U.S. consumer purchasing began to build momentum after COVID-19 shutdowns, the cargo boom continues at the nation’s top port for containerized cargo.

The Port of Los Angeles reported today it processed 890,800 TEUs in July, marking a 4% increase compared to last year and 12 consecutive months of year-over-year growth.

“This remarkable, sustained import surge is pushing the supply chain to new levels,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “Credit goes to our longshore workers and terminal operators for helping the Port of Los Angeles achieve an average of more than 11,000 TEUs exchanged on each vessel call, the best in the business.”

Exports Crash

While loaded imports in July rose 2.9% to 469,361 TEUs, exports did not fare so well. Loaded exports, decreased 27.6% to 91,440 TEUs compared to the same period last year – the lowest amount of exports at the Port of Los Angeles since February 2005. The ratio of imports to exports is now over 5 to 1, the widest gap on record. Exports through the port have now fallen 29 out of the last 33 months.

Empty containers climbed to 329,999 TEUs, a jump of 20.4% compared to last year due to the continued demand in Asia.

Seven months into the 2021 calendar year, overall cargo volume is 6,318,675 TEUs, an increase of 36.8% compared to 2020.

“With space tight at warehouses, rail yards and container terminals as we enter the traditional ‘peak’ shipping season, we are offering new data tools and incentives to help improve throughput and efficiencies. Additional strategies are being developed in conjunction with both the private sector and federal government,” said Seroka.

Busy August

Looking at August numbers, forecasters are calling perhaps the best month on record as the nation’s retailers shift from the back-to-school to the peak holiday shipping season. According to the National Retail Federation, August retail imports are forecast to hit 2.37 million TEU, which would be up 12.6 percent year-over-year and top May’s record of 2.33 million TEU, the largest number of containers imported during a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.

Seroka said August volumes at the Port of Los Angeles are currently forecast at 950,000 TEU.

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