Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

October Imports Tumble at Port of Long Beach

Mike Schuler
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November 11, 2022

Containerized imports landing at the Port of Long Beach fell by nearly 24% last month amid reduced consumer demand and a shift of imported goods toward the Gulf and East coasts.

Dockworkers and terminal operators handled 293,924 TEUs worth of loaded imports last month, marking a whopping 23.7% decline from October 2021’s 385,000 TEUs. Imports were the lowest since April 2020.

Overall, October’s volumes came in at 658,428 TEUs for a 16.6% decline from last October. Exports decreased 2% to 119,763 TEUs, while empty containers moved through the port fell 13.4% to 244,743 TEUs. 

Granted, October 2021 was the Port of Long Beach’s second-busiest October on record behind only October 2020.

“The supply chain is returning back to normal and cargo continues to move, so I am optimistic that store shelves will be stocked and goods will be available for delivery during the holiday season,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “Over the long term, the San Pedro Bay ports complex will continue to be a competitive, strategic and sustainable gateway for trans-Pacific trade.”

To put a positive spin on October’s numbers, the Port of Long Beach said economists believe consumers still have enough resources to weather economic headwinds, despite surging inflation and interest rates, while softening consumer activity will also contribute to a better balance between supply and demand, thereby reducing stress on the national supply chain.

Retail imports through the nation’s top container ports have continued to slow from records set earlier this year as retailers stocked up early for what is expected to be a record holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation said this week. Cargo levels peaked in the spring this year, earlier than usual, due to shippers’ concerns about port congestion, port and rail labor negotiations and other supply chain issues, said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

“We continue to collaborate with our industry and workforce partners to ensure the safe, sustainable and reliable delivery of goods moving through the Port,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman. “The Port of Long Beach has a lengthy history of adapting to the needs of our customers during the best of times and the most difficult of times.”

Year to date through October, the Port of Long Beach has moved 8,000,811 TEUs, up 1.5% from the same period in 2021.

Further softening is expected in the months ahead.

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