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SoCal Ports Miss Records for 2022 While Still Having Second Best Year

California ports see volume declines
Long Beach and Los Angeles both missed targets while still recording the second busiest years (Port of Long Beach)

Published Jan 20, 2023 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

South California’s twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continued their position as the U.S.’s busiest overall ports while still missing the records and targets for 2022. Each port handled more than 9 million TEU making the year just completed the second busiest in each port’s history, while according to port officials, operations are returning to more normal conditions going forward.

“We started 2022 with the same frenetic pace, but yet we ended with a disappointing 20 percent decline that began in August,” said Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles in his year-end review. He pointed to an early peak season in cargo movement, followed by a shifting of cargo to the East and Gulf Coast ports, and finally a nationwide slowing of imports as contributing to the year-over-year decline in container volumes at the Port of Los Angeles.

While 2022 was still the second-best year in the Port of Los Angeles’ 115-year history, it missed its goal of again reaching and exceeding 10 million TEU. Los Angeles finished 2022 at just over 9.9 million TEU. The overall container business was down seven percent for the year with the decline in import volumes continuing. In December, the port saw a more than eight percent decline in imports, but exports, which are smaller in overall volume, jumped by a third to 96,500 TEU. For the twenty-third consecutive year, the Port of Los Angeles was the nation’s number one container port.

Similarly, the neighboring Port of Long Beach reported that its 2022 overall volume was down nearly three percent while still having its second busiest year with 9.13 million TEU. For the year, Long Beach recorded a nearly five percent decline in import volumes with a smaller decline of less than two percent for exports. Port officials highlighted that the softening from the record pace allowed for a return to normal operations while once again serving as the nation’s leading export seaport.

“Cargo is moving smoothly as we move past the economic effects of COVID-19,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “In 2023, we will continue to invest in digital and physical infrastructure projects, focus on market share and develop long-term improvements that will strengthen our competitiveness and keep goods moving efficiently.”

Speaking at the first State of the Port address in three years, Gene Seroka on Thursday also highlighted the port's efforts to lead in innovation in 2023. One of the key initiatives for the port is increased investments in technology including the scheduled introduction of new data components. Reflecting the emphasis on U.S. exports, a new module of the Port Optimize will provide enhanced data specifically for exporters, while to improve port operations a new reservation system for trucks will be introduced. Seroka emphasized that currently, 50 percent of the ports’ trucking slots go unused. 

Looking to the longer term, Los Angeles also highlighted the strong growth in cruise operations in 2022. Reflecting the industry’s focus on close-to-home departures in 2022, Los Angeles said it had more cruise departures last year than in any year since 2008. They are moving forward with a long-delayed draft RFP for the development of a new outer harbor cruise terminal.

The focus will also increase on greening the operations from trucking to all aspects of the port. Seroka said that they are close to announcing the implementation plan for the Shanghai to Los Angeles Green Corridor. It would be the first in the shipping industry and is seen as a key step to helping shipping and specifically the container carriers to accelerate the transition to zero-emission operations.