Stacked containers are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Port of Los Angeles Took a Beating in September

Mike Schuler
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October 19, 2022

Imports at the Port of Los Angeles fell by a dramatic 27% in September as retailers sit on high levels inventory on shelves and in warehouses, the nation’s top container port said Wednesday. More pain is expected through at least the end of the year.

The Port of Los Angeles handled 709,873 TEUs in September 2022 for a whopping 21.5% decline from September 2021, which was the port’s busiest September on record.

Imports, in particular, have fallen off a cliff. September’s loaded imports came in at 343,462 TEUs, a 27% drop compared to the same month last year and 20% below the 5-year average for September. Last month’s imports were the lowest of any month since May 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, September 2022 now marks the worst September for imports dating all the way back to 2009.

Loaded exports reached 77,680 TEUs, up 3% compared to last September, while empty containers landed at 288,731 TEUs, a 20% decline compared to last year.

Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles began to slow in August after 25 months of record-breaking imports fueled by the pandemic’s import surge. September is now the second month of double-digit declines following August’s nearly 16% drop in cargo volumes.

With a soft fourth quarter expected, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said an early peak shipping season, West Coast port labor negotiations, and concerns over the economy are the main reasons for the pullback.

“Despite what will likely be a soft ending to 2022, we are on track to have the second-best year in our history,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said at a media briefing. “More importantly, the cargo backlog that began last year has been nearly eliminated due to the diligent, combined efforts of our supply chain partners.”

Port of Los Angeles’ September volumes once again came in below the Port of Long Beach, which moved 741,823 TEUs of cargo last month—nearly flat compared to September 2021. Imports were about even, at 343,462 TEUs versus Long Beach’s 342,671 TEUs. September imports at the Port of Long Beach were down only 7.4% compared to last year.

Closing out the third quarter, the Port of Los Angeles has processed 7,864,514 TEUs during the first nine months of 2022, about 4% down from last year’s record pace.

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