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Los Angeles on track to top 10M TEU

There are signs the congestion problem is starting to ease as the No.1 US container port eyes the 10M TEU milestone.

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The Yang Ming terminal in Los Angeles - terminals in the port are running at over 90% of storage capacity.
The Yang Ming terminal in Los Angeles - terminals in the port are running at over 90% of storage capacity.

Announcing the monthly container numbers for Port of Los Angeles this week, Executive Director Gene Seroka called the 113% year-on-year increase in its March result “stunning” and “the port’s version of March madness."

 

The 957,599 TEU handled in March is an all-time monthly record for the port. Loaded imports reached 490,115 TEU (+123%) and loaded exports edged up 1.5% to 122,899 TEUs. Empty containers loadings surged 219% compared to March 2020 reaching 344,585 TEU. The empty-to-full ratio for export containers remains at 4:1.

 

Container traffic is up 44% in 2021 year-on-year and Los Angeles is on target to break the 10M TEU mark for its financial year, which concludes on 30 June 2021.

 

With regard to congestion, Seroka was happy to report improvements in several key metrics. The port finished March with 18 vessels waiting at anchor holding some 215,00 TEU. Today nine of the 20 vessels at anchor at San Pedro Bay are waiting for a berth at Los Angeles - half the peak of February. 30% of vessels are now heading directly to a berth, but for the 70% that need to anchor, the average waiting time is still 7.9 days.

The Everport Terminal in Los Angeles this week.
The Everport Terminal in Los Angeles this week.

The port’s terminals remain under pressure, with land utilisation rates above 90%. However, terminal dwell time has dropped to 3.8 days in March from 5 days in February, and street dwell time for a 40ft box has dropped from 7.6 days to 6.8 days over the same period. Rail dwell time, however, is heading in the other direction, hitting nearly 11 days in March. Seroka attributed this to weather issues and the “one way traffic” trade imbalance creating a shortage of rail cars being positioned into Los Angeles.

 

Looking ahead, President Biden’s proposed investment in infrastructure under the “America Jobs Plan” has been welcomed across the port sector, including Los Angeles. “There is a lot to like about this plan, the nation’s freight system is overdue for investment and the plan has the framework to make real improvements,” Seroka said. He listed three key areas where the needs of the port align with the goals in the President’s plan:

  • Investing $174 billion in the electric vehicle market. “Investing just a portion of that in the nation’s largest drayage fleet would be an environmental game changer for Southern California,” Seroka said.
  • Investing $100 billion in digital infrastructure. Seroka is continuing to push for a “National Port Community System” as an important part of the US digital infrastructure.
  • Investing $50 billion in national infrastructure resiliency. Seroka noted that last summer California was threatened with rolling blackouts amid record heatwaves. “Ports state-wide were asked to shut down shore side power operations resulting in increased emissions in and around our ports,” Seroka said, highlighting the need for improved infrastructure.
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