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San Pedro Bay ports post strong container traffic growth

For the fifth consecutive month, the Port of Los Angeles has set a new single-month container cargo record, while the Port of Long Beach posted its fifth busiest August ever. Both ports want a speedy resolution of the US-China trade dispute. Throughput in Northern California is also growing

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San Pedro Bay ports post strong container traffic growth

In August, Los Angeles moved 861,081 TEU, the port’s busiest month ever and a 4.2% increase over the same period last year. Eight months into 2019 overall volumes have increased 5.7% compared to 2018, when the port set an all-time cargo record.


“Our strong volume growth this year is due in part to our global supply chain relationships, aggressive marketing and improvements in operational efficiencies,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We continue to build value with the Port Optimizer, a digitization tool that increases visibility of incoming cargo and improves logistics planning and overall efficiency.


“The final months of 2018 ended with an extraordinary influx of imports to beat expected tariffs on China-origin goods. “We don’t expect to see those kind of volumes in the months ahead. We need a negotiated settlement of the US-China trade war to restore global trade stability.”


August 2019 imports increased 4.1% to 437,613 TEU compared to the previous year. Exports decreased 10% to 146,284 TEU, the 10th consecutive monthly decline of exports. Empty containers increased 13.8% to 277,183 TEU. Combined, August overall volumes were 861,081 TEU. The previous August record was set in 2017 with 847,857 TEU.


For Long Beach, a total of 663,992 TEU were handled in August, 2.3% less than a year ago. Imports slid 5.9% to 322,780 TEU, exports rose 4.5% to 124,975 TEs and empty containers sent overseas for use in the global supply chain decreased 0.3% to 216,238 TEU.

Long Beach volumes after the first eight months of 2019 are 4,971,407 TEU, 6.6% down from last year’s record pace.

“These results are strong for any North American seaport, but lag behind our record high numbers last year, when retailers shipped goods to beat expected tariffs,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “We are still on track for one of our busiest years ever and our focus remains on delivering efficiency and reliability as we await the swift resolution of the US-China trade dispute.”

Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal said: “International trade has continued and will continue to evolve. Our focus as policy makers for the port must be long-term, and our future as the primary gateway for trans-Pacific commerce remains very positive. We are investing billions in efficient and sustainable cargo movement to serve the needs of the supply chain today and decades from now.”


In Northern California, the Port of Oakland has reported that container traffic in August increased 3.1% in imports and 1% in exports compared to August 2018. Empty container shipments fell by 14%. The port said it handled 88,323 TEU in August, its busiest August ever for inbound loads. Export volume came to 75,080 TEU. Export totals have now risen year-over-year for six consecutive months.


The port attributed August cargo increases to continued strong US consumer demand, which spurred import growth, and overseas demand for American farm goods resulting in more exports.


“It’s good to see volume trending in the right direction,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. “Let’s see now if we can keep it going through the fall.”


Oakland also reported that despite cargo volume increases, the number of ship calls declined 13% in August, as ocean carriers are loading more cargo on fewer, but larger, vessels to control costs.

As of the end of August, 956 ships had called Oakland this year, down from 1,066 in the same time period in 2018.

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