The global supply chain has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, and maritime ports haven’t been spared. But after many rough months, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach appear to be on their way to rebounding from COVID-19 hardships. Here’s a look at the numbers for July, which show a heartening upswing in activity.
The Port of Los Angeles
July is admittedly a bright spot amid a recent decline in numbers. In 2019, the Port of L.A. suffered from the trade war between the U.S. and China, and cargo volume dipped below the record levels reached in 2018. The Port of L.A. moved 9,337,632 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in 2019, a 1.2% year-over-year decrease.
In the first half of 2020, the pandemic took its toll. There was a 9.6% decline in June cargo at the Port of L.A. compared to the same month last year.
However, the numbers for July show that the industry is beginning to bounce back. At the Port of L.A., July was the busiest month of 2020, the second-best July performance ever, and the seventh best month in the port’s history. The port moved 856,389 TEUs that month, trailing July 2019 by 6.1%.
According to Gene Seroka, executive director for the Port of L.A., fewer canceled sailings and some additional unscheduled ship calls helped drive imports and exports higher than previous months.
The Port of Long Beach
The Port of Long Beach, too, faced many challenges in 2019 — namely, low cargo volumes due to the tariffs and China-U.S. trade war. Unlike the Port of L.A., however, the Port of Long Beach has seen more upticks in activity this year.
In May, the port reported a 9.5% increase in TEUs — to 628,205 — compared to the previous year. The Port of Long Beach also reported increases in imports (7.6%), exports (11.6%), and empty containers (11.4%) heading overseas that month.
And things are continuing to look up for Long Beach: July 2020 was the best month on record in the port’s 109-year history, with a 21% increase in total trade — to 138,602 TEUs — compared to July 2019. The Port of Long Beach also saw a short-term increase in extra vessel visits, which compensated for voyages that were canceled earlier this year.
Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, attributes the recent strong showings to the efforts of the port’s Business Recovery Task Force, which is working alongside customers, industry partners, labor, and government agencies to ensure that terminal and supply chain operations continue without disruption, as well as to expedite shipments of crucial personal protective equipment (PPE).
As the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach prepare to enter the year-end holiday season, it’s unclear how things will unfold. According to industry experts, holiday volumes will likely be lower than usual, but considering the surprisingly positive upswing that the ports have seen in recent months, things are looking brighter.
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