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The San Pedro Bay Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Photo Courtesy Port of Long Beach

The San Pedro Bay Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Photo Courtesy Port of Long Beach

Trade Slows at Southern California Ports in May

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 667
June 14, 2024

Southern California ports reported a slowdown in trade in May, with cargo volumes at the San Pedro Port Complex coming in below last year.

At the Port of Long Beach, dockworkers and terminal operators handled 695,937 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in May, marking an 8.2% decrease from May 2023. Imports slid 4.5% to 345,271 TEUs and exports decreased 21.1% to 100,885 TEUs. Empty containers moving through the Port declined 7% to 249,782 TEUs.

The Port of Long Beach attributed the decline in cargo volumes to shifting trade routes and canceled voyages. Nevertheless, the port has moved 3,449,181 TEUs in the first five months of 2024, marking a 10% increase from the same period in 2023.

“As we move into summer, I anticipate a moderate increase in cargo as we work with industry partners to rebuild our market share in this increasingly competitive environment,” said Mario Cordero, CEO of the Port of Long Beach.

Meanwhile, next door the Port of Los Angeles processed 752,893 TEUs in May, a slight 3% drop from the same month last year. However, the port has maintained an overall 18% increase in cargo volume for the first five months of the year compared to 2023.

May’s figures also revealed a 4.5% decline in loaded imports, standing at 390,663 TEUs, and a 6.3% drop from April 2024. Alternatively, loaded exports rose to 125,963 TEUs, a significant 24% increase from last year, marking a 12-month streak of year-over-year gains. The port also reported a decrease in the processing of empty containers by 12% compared to 2023, with the total count standing at 236,268.

The slowdown at the Southern California ports come despite a year-on-year upswing of 11.9% in total U.S. containerized imports in May, according to Descartes.

Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, reassured that despite the drop, the port continues the see strong and consistent volume trends from the start of the year continuing. “Our forecast indicates more robust activity on our docks throughout the summer,” he said.

May’s figures come in as labor talks concerning 45,000 dockworkers at U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports stalled this week, raising concerns about a potential strike if no agreement is reached by the September 30 deadline. A strike could have major implications for shippers, especially during the peak holiday shipping season, who are already faced with longer transit times and higher costs. Shippers also might consider importing into the U.S. West Coast if East Coast disruptions become a major concern

However, Seroka downplayed these labor developments, stating that such stops and starts are typical during negotiations.

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