California’s “big three” post big numbers in first quarter of 2021

Port of Los Angeles: What a Difference a Year Makes

What a difference a year makes. If anybody knows that, it is the Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. In his February media briefing Seroka remarked, “One year ago global trade slowed to a crawl as the COVID-19 pandemic first hit China and then spread worldwide…Today, we are in the seventh month of an unparalleled import surge, driven by unprecedented demands by American consumers.”

And, the numbers tell the story. In February the Port of Los Angeles handled a staggering 799,315 TEUs, a 47% increase over COVID stricken February 2020 – the best February in the Port’s history and seventh consecutive month of year-over-year increases.

Of course, the tsunami like surge of imports has come at a price.

Container ships have been riding anchor awaiting berths like the LA freeway at rush hour.

At this writing, 28 containerships are at anchor awaiting berths in LA and the neighboring San Pedro port of Long Beach. The good news is this is a significant decrease over the 40 ships that were piled up in early February but still bad news for consumers awaiting their goods.

The tale in the TEU tally illustrates just how strong the inbound side is running. Loaded imports at 412,884 are up nearly 53% over 2020. The other side of the container import surge is the difficulty in getting containers repositioned back to sourcing sites – largely in Asia – for reload. The number of empties leaving LA is amazing. In February alone the Port handled 285,223 TEUs, an over 104% (editor’s italics) increase compared to 2020. Exports, on the other hand, are down. Loaded exports are off nearly 25%, compared to 2020.

At the moment clearing out the congestion is a priority. Seroka in his February briefing said the backlog of cargo is so intense that it will take months to clear out. One result of this effort, Seroka said, is that CMA-CGM has begun a new service from Asia with Oakland as the first port of call instead of Los Angeles or Long Beach.

The diversions are designed to help relieve the congestion burden on the two Southern California ports and reduce the delays of import shipments when a ship is due to arrive in Oakland and is delayed by congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Seroka said he does not believe the diversions will be permanent.

Seroka also noted that one third of cargoes entering the Port are destined for warehouses in the Inland Empire, located in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, east of Los Angeles County. He expressed the hope that more night time truck deliveries and offers of additional warehouse space will help ease the crush of cargo flows.

To that end, on February 1st the Port of LA launched a new incentive program to move trucks faster and more efficiently through its…

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