Port of Los Angeles Records Busiest Quarter Ever

The Port of Los Angeles processed 883,625 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in September, an increase of 13.3% compared to 2019. It marks the busiest September as well as the best single three-month quarter – 2,701,847 TEUs – in the Port’s 114-year history.

“Despite unresolved questions about our nation’s health, economy and export strength, imports have improved significantly after a difficult spring,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “I commend our longshore labor force, Los Angeles marine terminal operators, truckers and supply chain stakeholders who continue to rise to the challenge throughout this pandemic.”

September loaded imports increased 17.3% to 471,795 TEUs compared to the previous year. Loaded exports decreased 0.3% to 130,397 TEUs. Empty containers increased 14% to 281,434 TEUs. The 883,625 TEUs in total eclipsed the previous September record of 801,264 set in 2018. “It’s a big upswing from what we … were used to seeing in just the first six months of 2020, when we averaged a little bit more than 627,000 TEUs per month. This is about a 30% increase in the run rate we witnessed in the first half of the year.” Seroka said.

97 cargo vessels arrived in September, with no canceled sailings. The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Oliver discharged and loaded more than 30,200 TEUs during its visit in September to APM Terminals. It’s the second highest all-time number of TEUs handled in a single ship visit at the Port of Los Angeles.

Although welcomed, the cargo windfall has created “some supply chain complexities that must be dealt with on a daily basis. We’re working with stakeholders on the challenges that arise from an import surge like this. We’ve seen dwell times increase, longer turn times for our trucks, additional cargo on our tarmacs,” Seroka said.

“We’re busy. You go to LAX the day before Thanksgiving, the airport’s going to be busy, the same for Boston Logan. We don’t have vessel congestion, but what we see are segments that continue to need refinement. These ships are bigger than ever. Our exchange rate … was above 10,800 TEUs per vessel — a record anywhere in the world. It takes time to process that cargo. Now we’re seeing dwell time increase on the street due to COVID-19 requirements.”

Imports in September totaled 471,795 TEUs, a 17% increase over the same month last year. However, even with the uptick in cargo the last two months, year-to-date 2020 imports are still down 5.1% from 2019, Seroka said. 

September exports totaled 130,297, about flat compared to 2019, he continued. “But this continues a problematic trend. We’ve seen exports drop 22 of the past 23 months. The widening trade deficit created largely by trade tensions between the U.S. and China continues to disrupt the supply chain. 

Despite record-setting numbers in August and September, total volume for 2020 remains down about 9% year-over-year. But Seroka said data shows October at about 950,000 TEUs and November well above 800,000 TEUs. 

Source: Port of Los Angeles