Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

Port of Long Beach Continues Record-Setting Streak and Warns of Cargo Surge When China Reopens

Mike Schuler
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May 13, 2022

The Port of Long Beach set another new single-month record in April as the port continues to clear marine terminals of cargo ahead an expected new wave of imports in the coming months as China opens up from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Dockworkers and terminal operators at the port moved 820,718 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) worth of container cargo last month, up 10% from the previous monthly record set in April 2021. April now marks the fourth month in a row that the Port of Long Beach has set new monthly cargo records.

“Cargo continues to move at a record-setting pace and may not slow down anytime soon,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “We are preparing for a likely summertime surge as China recovers from an extended shutdown due to COVID-19. Shippers are quickly moving imports and empties from the docks, terminals are staying open longer and we are working to finalize our new Supply Chain Information Highway data tracking solution.”

April imports rose 9.2% to 400,803 TEUs, while the number of empty containers moving through the port also increased 16.9% to 298,039 TEUs. However, exports last month were down by 1.8% year-over-year to 121,876 TEUs, coming as ocean carriers are facing greater scrutiny over export services for American exporters.

“We are working closely with our industry stakeholders to quickly move the cargo off our docks and make room for the next wave of containers,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “As the supply chain continues to catch up, the Port of Long Beach will continue to serve as a reliable partner in trans-Pacific trade.”

The Port of Long Beach’s announcement highlighted that shippers are anticipated to be busier than usual when pandemic-induced shutdowns are eventually lifted across China. However, it also noted that retail activity is leveling out due to inflation, while consumers are also reshuffling their household budgets to allow for more spending on entertainment, restaurants and other in-person services. This echoes recent news that despite the strong the start to the year for container shipping, the outlook remains murky due to issues such as inflation, waning demand in the U.S, uncertainty regarding China’s lockdowns, and the war in Ukraine.

Horizon Murky for Container Shipping as Carriers Report Big Returns 

Absent from the announcement was any mention of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement that kicked off this week between ILWU dockworkers and Pacific Maritime Association employers at U.S. West Coast ports, which some fear could lead to even more disruptions in the supply chain despite assurances from both sides to keep cargo moving throughout the negotiations.

During the first four months of 2022, the Port of Long Beach has moved 3,281,377 TEUs, a 5.1% increase from the same period last year. In 2021, the Port of Long Beach set a new all-time record by moving over 9.3 million TEU amid a pandemic-induced import surge that began in the second half of 2020.  

Lastly, the “Container Dwell Fee” remains on hold.

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