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Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Post Reduced Annual Volumes

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The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 01-23-2020 02:16:00

The Port of Long Beach announced Wednesday that it moved 7.6 million TEU over the span of 2019, its second-busiest year on record and a six-percent decline from the fast pace it set the year before. 

In line with expectations about the impact of the U.S.-China trade war, imports fell by eight percent to reach 3.8 million TEU. Exports fell three percent to 1.5 million TEU and emties fell three percent to 2.4 million TEU. 
 
December's numbers represented a starker change when compared with the same period in 2018. Total volume fell 10 percent to 320,000 TEU, led by a 13 percent drop in imports and a 15 percent drop in empties. Export volume rose 10 percent to 125,000 TEU. 

While the numbers may be down, port executive director Mario Cordero sounded a positive note in his State of the Port address last Wednesday. Looking ahead into 2020, Cordero predicted “better times ahead” given the progress on the trade war discussions; he also pointed to the challenges of lagging business investment and continued uncertainty in the industry.

“At the end of the day, we need to be ready for whatever may come,” Cordero said in his speech. “We need to compete, we need to innovate, we need to lead. And most of all, we need to collaborate.”

Last week, the neighboring Port of Los Angeles announced that it had its third-busiest year on record in 2019 with about 9.3 million TEU in volume. The number represents a decline of about one percent from the record set in 2018. 

Like Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles saw a sharp fall-off in December year-on-year, with total volume down by 15 percent. Last year, the ports both saw a rush of cargo as importers sped up shipments from China in order to get ahead of an expected jump in tariff rates. December 2018 was the Port of LA's busiest month in history. 
 
“In the face of lagging exports due to international trade tensions and tariff uncertainties, the Port of Los Angeles has maintained strong momentum and kept cargo flowing,” port executive director Gene Seroka said. “This feat was only possible because of the extensive cooperation and continued efficiency improvements by our terminal operators, supply chain partners and longshore workforce.”

Seroka also outlined a number of port initiatives for 2020 and beyond, including an incentive program for terminal operators that reduce truck turn times. 
 
“It’s time for the courage and long-range vision to imagine what this port will look like in the years ahead and set a course in that direction,” Seroka said. “It’s going to take collaboration to keep cargo volumes strong and our port community thriving in the midst of increasing competition, an uncertain trade environment and a world where technology is essential to success.”