Ports in Southern California gain ground in July amid COVID-19 crisis
The San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in southern California, the largest container port complex in the United States, saw cargo volumes stop sliding down in July after the bleak first half of year impacted by COVID-19 and trade policies.
According to the Port of Los Angeles, it moved 856,389 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in July, which was the busiest month thus far of 2020 and the second-best July history. Meanwhile, the data released by the Port of Long Beach on Friday showed July was the busiest month in the 109-year history of the port.
The Long Beach port moved 753,081 TEUs, nearly 900 more than the previous record set two years ago, the authority said in a statement, adding it was spurred by a surge in online spending as consumers stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The San Pedro Bay Port Complex handles approximately 40 percent of all containerized imports and 30 percent of all containerized exports for the United States, according to data released by the Port of Los Angeles last June.
The two ports remained open with all terminals operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they both had to struggle with the canceled sailings in the first and second quarters due to the global economic crisis triggered by the fatal disease.
For the Port of Los Angeles, leading North America’s seaport by container volume and cargo value which facilitated 276 billion U.S. dollars in trade during 2019, July’s digital showed it was recovering from the bad time, but the turning point had not been confirmed since the number still trailed July 2019 by 6.1 percent.
The port’s July loaded imports decreased 4.3 percent to 456,029 TEUs compared to the previous year. And Loaded exports dropped 21.7 percent to 126,354 TEUs.
“Fewer canceled sailings and 11 additional ‘ad hoc’ or unscheduled ship calls helped drive both imports and exports higher than recent months but still short of last July’s all-time record,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka during a video press conference Thursday.
The Port of Long Beach saw steep increases in both imports and exports: imports rose 20.3 percent compared to July 2019 while exports grew 24.1 percent. The rate of empty containers headed back overseas rose 20.8 percent over 2019.
“Supply chain workers at the Port of Long Beach expertly handled a welcome surge in cargo that was brought on due to pent-up demand by consumers,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach in a statement. “It was a good month, a bright spot, in the midst of the devastating effects of the coronavirus on the economy.”
The Port of Long Beach is still down overall from 2019, with volume this year declining by 2.8 percent. But the Port of Los Angles suffered a decline of 15.3 percent compared with 2019 to 4,618,278 TEUs.
“Exports have been down 20 of the last 21 months, mainly on the heels of trade tensions with China and other policies,” Seroka said, but he predicted the situation in coming months could be better because there were fewer canceled sailings, “only two in July and only one in August is planned, and none for September just yet.”
“Preliminary data for August indicates solid volumes as retailers continue restocking inventories and preparing for the year-end holiday season,” he said.
Seroka said that the port had experienced 11 straight months of declines in total cargo volume, and he hoped that the record of 15 consecutive months during the recession of 2008 and 2009 could not be broken.
“July’s performance reflects our excellent customer service and mission to move cargo efficiently, even during an unprecedented pandemic and the ongoing trade war with China,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “We will continue to work with our partners to ensure the secure and speedy shipment of goods.”