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Los Angeles Surpasses 1 Million TEU for New Western Hemisphere Record

Los Angeles container volume record
Los Angeles became the first Western Hemisphere port to handle more than 1 million TEU in a single month (Port of Los Angeles)

Published Jun 15, 2021 8:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the second time in less than a week, the Port of Los Angeles announced that it has set a new milestone for container volumes at a port in the Western Hemisphere. The port now holds the record for the most amount of containers processed in a single month, achieving the busiest month in its 114-year history, and a record for a 12-month period.

“I am so pleased to report that for the first time ever, in the month of May, we moved over one million TEU through the Port of Los Angeles,” said the port’s executive director Gene Seroka in a recorded statement. “This comes on the heels of last week’s 10 million TEU achievement.”

For the tenth consecutive month, the Port of Los Angeles recorded year-over-year increases in volume, with a 74 percent rise in TEU volumes over 2020. It became the first Western Hemisphere port to handle 1,012,048 TEU in a single month.

“The historic level of cargo that we’re managing reflects our commitment to reach new heights by working with our partners to further enhance our productivity, throughput, and velocity,” said Seroka. “Much credit goes to our longshore workforce, truckers, terminal operators, ocean carriers, railroads, and other stakeholders for scaling up to meet this extraordinary demand.”

The Port of Los Angeles reported that longshore labor shifts are up 20 percent versus the three-year average and that vessel productivity has risen 50 percent. Importantly, this has helped the port to reduce its substantial backlog, although Seroka highlighted that they continue to work on their railroad product to get containers out of the port and inland quicker.

The port’s Signal data report highlights that currently only eight ships are at anchor waiting for terminal space. The average wait time at anchor is also down to five days.

The strong container volume continues to be driven by imports, which were up 75 percent year-over-year. A total of 535,714 TEUs arrived at the port making it the most imports ever in one month arriving at Los Angeles. 

Despite a better than five percent rise in export volumes last month, Seroka highlighted a strong imbalance with a ratio of nearly 5 to 1 on imports to exports. He highlighted that the trade gap has widened to be the largest “we have seen in our time.” 

In addition to the widening trade gap, he also said the current situation in southern China and the currently reduced throughput in the ports warranted close observation. He noted a third of the vessels coming to Los Angeles depart from the south China ports.

Seroka provided the update as he was in Washington, D.C. to appear before a Congressional subcommittee as part of hearings into the disruptions to the supply chain and its impact on the U.S. economy. The hearing was looking into port congestion and supply issues and came as America’s retailers asked the White House for a meeting to highlight the important need to invest in America’s ports to reduce the current disruptions and prevent future challenges.