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Aerial photo of the port of Long Beach

Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

Port of Long Beach Cargo Volumes Fall Amid Full Warehouses and Changing Trade Routes

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3133
April 19, 2023

Trade at the Port of Long Beach saw a significant decline in cargo volumes in March 2023, falling by nearly a third from the same period last year, as retailers continue to clear out warehouses and shippers move their routes to seaports on the East and Gulf coasts.

Monthly data released by the Port of Long Beach reveals that dockworkers and terminal operators moved 603,878 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last month, down 30% from March 2022, which was the port’s busiest March on record.

The data also showed that imports fell 34.7% to 279,148 TEUs, while exports increased 16.9% to 133,512 TEUs. Empty containers moved through the Port also fell 40.5% to 191,218 TEUs.

Despite these numbers, March volumes showed an 11% gain over February and a 5% increase compared to January.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero noted that “warehouses remain full and fewer cargo containers are crossing the docks because consumer spending remains slow,” adding that the port is working with its industry partners to recapture market share lost to East and Gulf Coast ports since 2021 due to congestion and uncertainty surround West Coast labor talks.

Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman said, “We continue to invest in our infrastructure projects and look for ways to efficiently and sustainably move cargo so our customers new and old are reminded why we are the Port of Choice. We will be ready when cargo volumes are on the rise again.”

The decline in trade at the Port of Long Beach is reflective of a wider trend in the economy, as consumers spend less due to slower income growth, declining savings buffers, and rising credit card debt. However, economists say that financial markets are starting to stabilize following fears of a banking crisis in March.

The Port of Long Beach has moved 1,721,326 TEUs during the first quarter of 2023, down 30% from the same period in 2022. The data suggests that the port is facing significant challenges, but officials remain optimistic that the economy will eventually recover and trade volumes will rise again.

A new report by Descartes Systems Group released on Tuesday revealed that West Coast ports are losing about 1 million TEUs annually to East and Gulf Coast ports amid an eastward shift in trade patterns that has accelerated since 2021. With no end in sight to the protracted labor talks, it’s really anyone’s guess if, when, or to what extent West Coast ports will be able to their market share of imports lost during the pandemic.

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