Volumes leveling off as COVID-19 restrictions lifted nationwide

Cargo moving through the Port of Long Beach remained strong in June as retail spending cooled down while consumers warmed up to summertime recreation and entertainment.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 724,297 twenty-foot equivalent units in June, up 20.3% from the same month last year. Imports rose 18.8% to 357,101 TEUs, while exports saw a relatively flat decrease of 0.5% to 116,947 TEUs. Empty containers moved through the Port jumped 36% to 250,249 TEUs.

“We anticipate e-commerce to drive much of our cargo movement through the rest of 2021 as retailers plan for a busy summer season,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “However, June serves as an indicator that consumer demand for goods will gradually level off as the national economy continues to open up and services become more widely available.”

“We’re optimistic that this is shaping up to be one of our busiest years on record as we continue to overcome the challenges related to COVID-19,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “We will continue to collaborate with our waterfront workers and industry partners to move cargo quickly and efficiently through the supply chain during this time of ongoing economic recovery.”

June Container Trade (TEUs)

Category 2021 2020 % Change
Loaded Inbound 357,101 300,714 18.8%
Loaded Outbound 116,947 117,538 -0.5%
Empties Inbound 12,634 11,300 11.8%
Empties Outbound 237,615 172,628 37.6%
TOTAL (T.E.U.) 724,297 602,180 20.3%


Demand for household products, electronics and other goods rose as consumers returned to work following the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed to a 38.5% increase in cargo shipments at the Port of Long Beach during the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, with 4,753,828 TEUs processed. Second quarter throughput was 2,377,700 TEUs, up 35.8% from last year, marking the second-best quarter in the Port’s 110-year history.

Fewer cargo ships called at the Port of Long Beach in June compared to a month earlier due to shifting services and a COVID-19 outbreak at the Yantian port in China that resulted in some vessels delaying arrivals until July.

Rising prices drove down consumer spending for products in May, but overall national retail sales remained 18% higher than pre-pandemic levels. As states lifted most COVID-19 restrictions in June, consumers have pivoted to spending at restaurants, bars, travel and other services.

The Port of Long Beach is the nation’s second-busiest seaport. With 175 shipping lines connecting Long Beach to 217 seaports, the Port handles $200 billion in trade annually, supporting more than 575,000 Southern California jobs.