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Cargo containers pile up at a marine terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

Cargo containers piled up at a marine terminal at the Port of Los Angeles in March 2022. Photo courtesy Port of Los Angeles

Port of Los Angeles Reports Third-Busiest Month Ever in May: ‘No Precipitous Drop’ in Ships Leaving China

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2916
June 17, 2022

The Port of Los Angeles, the biggest in the United States, is reporting its third busiest month on record in May with a busy summer and early peak shipping season anticipated.

May’s cargo throughput came in at 967,900 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), bringing the port’s year-to-date total to more than 4.5 million TEUs, equal to last year’s record-setting pace.

May 2022 loaded imports reached 499,960 TEUs compared to the previous year, a decrease of 6.8% but 21% higher than the previous five-year May average.

Loaded exports came in at 125,656 TEUs, a 14.3% increase compared to the same period last year. May marked the highest level of exports processed at the Port of Los Angeles since November 2020.

Empty containers reached 342,285 TEUs, down 6.6% compared to last year.

May’s productivity ranked it as the third best month ever for the port behind October 2020 (980,728 TEUs) and May 2021 (1,012,047 TEUs).

During his monthly cargo briefing, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said that despite high inflation, high savings and revolving credit means American consumers are continuing to buy.

“Retailers replenished inventory throughout the spring and now we’ll see a transition to back-to-school goods, fall fashion and some early year-end holiday products,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “While American consumers have become more cost conscious, overall demand remains strong.

“Meanwhile, we’ve reached a new productivity milestone on our docks,” Seroka added. “On average, 12,000 TEUs were discharged and loaded back on to every container vessel in May. That eclipsed our own previous best-in-the-business record of 11,300 TEUs recorded last summer.”

May’s cargo numbers come one week after President Biden visited the Port of Los Angeles where he discussed the issue of high inflation and foreign ocean carriers’ control over the market in the lead up to today’s signing into law of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

As for the lockdowns in China and their impacts on U.S. importing, Seroka said the number of ships leaving Asia has remained consistent since the beginning of the year, currently numbering 47 vessels.

“We’ve witnessed no precipitous drop as some observers had called for with the lockdowns in Shanghai,” Seroka said. “With the China government and ports prioritizing the long haul cargo headed here to Los Angeles, the volume remains consistent.”

Meanwhile, the containership backup as of last Friday (June 10) stood at just 20 ships in the queue, which is about on par with the backup in June 2021 but down significantly since from the record of 109 ships in January 2022, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. You may recall, the backup grew steadily following May 2021’s record cargo numbers. Where it’s headed from here is anyone’s guess.

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