FILE PHOTO: MSC Isabella at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Port of Los Angeles

Port of Los Angeles Reports Busiest Month Ever on Loaded Imports, Empty Exports

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3082
November 20, 2020

The Port of Los Angeles processed a little over 980,000 twenty-foot equivalent containers in October to set a new record for the busiest month in the port’s history as imports to the U.S. surge.

The Port of Los Angeles holds the rank of the busiest port in the United States and it is the top destination for imports from China. Its cargo statistics are often referred as a bellwether of the health of the U.S. economy.

The port of Thursday reported it handled whopping 980,729 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in October for an astonishing increase of 27.3% compared to October 2019, propelled by replenishing inventories and retailers preparing for upcoming holidays.

Year-to-date, overall cargo volumes still lags by 5.3% compared to 2019 due to first-half 2020 impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

October loaded imports reached 506,613 up nearly 29% compared to October 2019’s loaded imports. Of note, empty containers shipped overseas increased 39.3% compared to October 2019, reaching a record of 330,180 TEUs and highlighting the trans-pacific trade imbalance that has led to a literal container shortage in Asia, prompting carriers to reposition empty containers back to the continent as soon as possible.

“Overall volume has been strong yet the trade imbalance remains a concern,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “For every three and a half containers that are imported into Los Angeles from abroad, only one container leaves filled with U.S. exports. One-way trade will not put Americans back to work and it adds logistical challenges to the supply chain.”

Ninety-seven cargo vessels arrived in October, including 16 extra loaders and two canceled sailings. The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Isabella discharged and loaded 32,953 TEUs during its October visit to APM Terminals. Other than the Isabella’s maiden call here in June, it’s the second-highest number of TEUs handled in a single ship visit at the Port of Los Angeles.

The record-breaking cargo volumes through the Port of Los Angeles and its neighbor at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex, the Port of Long Beach, is the direct result of the COVID-19 crisis and its early impact on the global economy. In the first quarter of 2020, cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles were down 18.5% compared to 2019, led by a historic crash in March which saw overall cargo volumes fall to 449,568 TEUs, the lowest volume since February 2009 and less than half of last month’s record numbers. First half 2020 volumes were down more than 17%.

Seroka noted at the early on in the COVID crisis that significant supply chain swings like the current one would occur and said there could be more uncertainty ahead.

“With COVID-19 cases on the rise nationwide, the U.S. economic outlook remains uncertain,” Seroka said. “Volume swings like the one we are seeing are an outgrowth of this uncertainty. We are using Port Optimizer™ data and the expertise of our supply chain partners to prepare for a range of scenarios to respond to market demands in the months ahead.”

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