Port of Long Beach Reports Record Volumes as Imports Surge

Long Beach record volumes in September
Port of Long Beach (file photo)

Published Oct 22, 2020 3:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Further evidence of the rebound in the shipping trade came from the Port of Long Beach which reported its busiest month ever during September and the most active quarter in the 109-year history of the port. This also led to a record number of ship-to-shore cargo container transfers in a single month.

According to data released by the Port of Long Beach for September, trade was up 12.5 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The port moved 795,580 TEUs to establish a new best month record exceeding its prior best in July 2020 by nearly 42,500 TEUs. Total volume for the third quarter was up over 14 percent versus the year-ago to nearly 2.3 million TEUs topping the previous record set during the third quarter of 2017 by nearly 160,000 TEUs.

Contributing to the new record was a surge in imports, which grew more than 14 percent in September compared to the year ago. This growth also helped the port to make up for the lost volumes earlier in the year. Import volumes are now flat year-over-over when compared to 2019.

The port cited continuing increases in demand for furniture, paint, and office equipment as consumers make home improvements and work from home during the COVID-19 epidemic as the factors contributing to the increased volumes. 

Other signs of the strength included 19 unscheduled vessel calls at the port in September bringing the total for the month to 92 containerships calls and making up for the voyages canceled earlier this year. 

A possible indicator of continued strength in the volumes can be seen in the level of empties being loaded at the port for return to Asia. The volume of empties jumped more than 21 percent in September demonstrating the reports from the major carriers that they are scrambling to recover boxes and selling out on many routes.

“Large retail stores are reopening, merchants are stocking up for the winter holidays and the increased use of e-commerce appears to be an enduring trend picked up by consumers during the recent stay-at-home orders,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “Still, we must move ahead with caution during the remaining months of 2020 because the national economy continues to be heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While the import volume was strong, the port, however reported a decline in exports. The volume was down nearly nine percent in September to just over 112,500 TEUs. Year-to-date exports, however, remain up nearly two percent. 

The Port of Long Beached closed its fiscal year on September 30 with just over a one percent decline in total volume to under 7.7 million TEUs. While inbound volume was down nearly three percent in the fiscal year the outbound volume more than offset the decline with a nearly four percent increase for the year.

Long Beach’s positive export volumes are in contrast to its sister port Los Angeles, which has reported nearly two years of steady declines in its export volume.