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Port of Long Beach Reports Busiest Year in 2020 Despite Headwinds

Mike Schuler
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January 15, 2021

The Port of Long Beach moved a record 8.1 million TEUs in 2020 despite facing headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing trade war with China.

Total cargo volumes rose 6.3% year-over-year to 8,113,315 TEUs, led by imports which were up 6.4% to 3,998,340 TEUs. Exports totaled 1,475,888 TEUs, up 0.2%, while empty containers increased 9.9% to 2,639,088 TEUs

The Port of Long Beach said it exceeded the previous annual record set in 2018 by 22,292 TEUs.

“I want to thank our frontline workers on the docks who kept cargo moving during this unprecedented moment in history, ensuring the safe, secure and timely delivery of vital medical equipment and consumer goods,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “We have all endured incredible hardships with COVID-19, but I am looking forward to 2021 as a time of economic recovery and a renewed focus on our industry partners, infrastructure projects and community stakeholders.”

The record volume is in stark contrast to the first half of the year when the COVID-19 pandemic drove down demand for consumer, leading to a 6.9% decline in cargo compared to the first half of 2019. The San Pedro Bay ports complex – Long Beach and L.A. combined – had 104 canceled sailings in the first half of 2020, 37 of which were destined for Long Beach. That was up from 41 canceled sailings for both ports in the first half of 2019.

The Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest container port, reported 9.2 million TEUs in 2020 making for its fourth busiest year.

“Demand rose for medical equipment, along with home improvement items, exercise equipment and office furniture as consumers endured shelter-in-place orders and worked from home during the COVID-19 epidemic. The surge in cargo continued through the final months of 2020 as retailers stocked their shelves for the holiday shopping season,” the Port of Long Beach said.

The port said preliminary estimates show that in the second half it had 104 unscheduled containership calls to make up for voyages canceled earlier in the year, more than quadrupling the unscheduled sailings reported during the same period in 2019.

The Port of Long Beach closed out its year with its busiest month and quarter in its 110-year history, processing 815,885 TEU and 2.4 million TEU, respectively

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