Port of LA Sets New Record, Handling 980,000 TEU in a Month

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Image courtesy Port of Los Angeles

Published Nov 19, 2020 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Los Angeles experienced a tremendous cargo surge in October, handling 980,000 TEU in four weeks. It was the busiest month in the port's history, up 27 percent year-on-year.

“Overall volume has been strong yet the trade imbalance remains a concern,” said Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka. “For every three and a half containers that are imported into Los Angeles from abroad, only one container leaves filled with U.S. exports. One-way trade will not put Americans back to work and it adds logistical challenges to the supply chain.”

Loaded imports made up about 500,000 TEU of the total, reflecting elevated consumer demand for foreign-made goods during the pandemic shutdown. A huge surge in empties added another 330,000 TEU - a sign of the ongoing equipment repositioning challenges in the transpacific trade routes. Loaded exports were up slightly year-on-year at 144,000 TEU, but did not track upwards at the same rate as imports. 

A single ship accounted for about three percent of the month's total. The MSC Isabella discharged and loaded nearly 33,000 TEU during her October port call - just shy of the world record 34,263 TEU she transferred over the wharf in June. 

With all of this activity, the port is experiencing congestion problems. Seroka said in a news conference Wednesday that containers are arriving more quickly than they can be sent out the gate, and there are "fewer and fewer places to put them." 

To address this challenge, Port of LA has deployed Port Optimizer's Signal data tool, launched in September. It provides a three-week look at cargo coming into Los Angeles. It is also launching a data tool for truckers to know when and where to return their empty containers to cargo terminals.