Port of Long Beach Ends 2020 Strong With Multiple Records for Volume

Port of Long Beach reports record December, quarter and 2020
Port of Long Beach photo

Published Jan 18, 2021 6:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Long Beach, California ended 2020 with a string of records despite the challenges of a year impacted by the global pandemic. The port not only recouped the declines from the beginning of the year, but ended 2020 with the busiest month in its history, the most active quarter, and a record container volume for the full year.

“This record demonstrates the effort of our dockworkers and the port’s determination to collaborate with our partners to overcome the devastating economic challenges presented by COVID-19 and the trade war with China,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. 

The port ended 2020, with an increase of 6.3 percent to a record of more than 8.1 million TEUs. The port exceeded the previous annual record set in 2018 by 22,292 TEUs. Imports drove the increase for the year also being up more than six percent. Unlike some U.S. ports, Long Beach reported that its export volumes were flat for the year, while other ports saw a continuing decline in exports. The volume of empties leaving Long Beach was also up 10 percent for the year.

“I want to thank our frontline workers on the docks who kept cargo moving during this unprecedented moment in history, ensuring the safe, secure, and timely delivery of vital medical equipment and consumer goods,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “We have all endured incredible hardships with COVID-19, but I am looking forward to 2021 as a time of economic recovery and a renewed focus on our industry partners, infrastructure projects, and community stakeholders.”

The COVID-19 pandemic drove down consumer demand for goods during the first half of 2020, leading to a seven percent decline in cargo compared to the same period a year earlier. The San Pedro Bay ports complex - Long Beach and L.A. combined - had 104 canceled sailings in the first half of 2020 versus 41 in the first half of 2019. A third of the 2020 blank sailings, a total of 37, were scheduled for Long Beach.

As demand rose in the second half of the year the shipping lines had rushed to add capacity, reactivating ships Preliminary estimates show that Long Beach saw 104 unscheduled container ship calls in the second half of 2020. That was more than quadruple the unscheduled sailings reported during the same period in 2019.

Demand rose for medical equipment, along with home improvement items, exercise equipment, and office furniture contributed to the strong increases in volume. Port officials said that the surge in cargo continued through the final months of 2020 as retailers stocked their shelves for the holiday shopping season.

The port also reported two additional records in December by achieving the busiest month and the most active quarter in its 110-year history. Volume for the quarter was up 23 percent to over 2.4 million TEUs. During December, the port moved 815,885 TEUs breaking its previous best month, which was October 2020, by 9,282 TEUs.