Long Beach Reports 17 Percent Drop in Container Volume

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Published May 14, 2020 1:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Long Beach saw a 17 percent year-on-year drop in container volume in April, the latest sign of the coronavirus pandemic's effects on America's biggest deep sea ports. 

Imports were down by 20 percent, overseas-bound empties were down 12 percent and exports fell by 17 percent. For the first four months of the year - including the period in January before COVID-19 trade disruption arrived on the West Coast - Long Beach's total volume by TEU fell by nearly 10 percent. 

Manufacturing is on the rebound in China, easing the challenges faced on the East Asian side of the transpacific trade lanes. However, decreased U.S. consumer demand due to COVID-related stay-at-home orders drove down import volumes, the port said. Exports were hampered by a shift of carrier services. 

“We look forward to a recovery stage and rebounding cargo shipments as the nation contemplates relaxing shelter-in-place orders, people return to work and consumer demand rises - however it will not be in the short term,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “In the meantime, we continue to collaborate with importers, exporters, terminal operators and labor to develop a recovery plan while ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of goods moving through the Port of Long Beach.”

The port cautioned that there are more challenges ahead. At Long Beach and the adjacent Port of Los Angeles - the San Pedro Bay port complex - ocean carriers are expected to cancel 48 voyages in the second quarter of the year. This is about five times the number of blanked sailings the complex saw in Q2 2019.

At the Port of Los Angeles, total volume declined by 6.5 percent year-on-year in April. In a briefing in early May, port executive director Gene Seroka described the result as "better than expected" under the challenging cirucmstances.