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Late surge pushes Port of Los Angeles to 9.2m teu

Late surge pushes Port of Los Angeles to 9.2m teu
The Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles handled 9.2m teu last year with a late surge of pandemic-induced consumer spending helping to boost volumes to near 2019 levels.

In the third and fourth quarters of 2020, cargo volumes increased 50% over the first half of the year, with the West Coast hub handling 94% more traffic the week before Christmas compared to the same week in 2019. Over the whole year, the port recorded a 1.5% drop in volumes.

Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles, said: “Our container business in 2020 was the most erratic we have ever seen, with volumes plunging nearly 19% in the first five months of the year, followed by an unprecedented second-half surge.”

Speaking at the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association’s sixth annual State of the Port of Los Angeles, Seroka laid out the port’s priorities for 2021.

These include job creation, cargo growth, infrastructure investment, accelerating zero emission technology development and deployment, and continued development of the waterfront community.

He reiterated the port’s focus on supply chain efficiency and optimisation, calling for nationwide port data connectivity that could provide enhanced visibility, efficiency and choice for cargo owners, as well as a more stable supply chain.

“If we want America to improve as a leader in global trade, we need nationwide port data connectivity with agreed-upon data standards and open architecture system that provides interconnectivity between major US ports, service providers and the freight they move,” added Seroka.

He also announced the development of the Control Tower, the newest in a series of Port Optimizer cloud-based data solutions.

Developed in collaboration with Wabtec, it will aim to provide new levels of metrics and data including real-time port level views of turn times, truck capacity management information and detailed velocity metrics.

The solution follows the port’s introduction of the Signal last year, a data dashboard providing a three-week-in-advance look at cargo coming into the port, as well as the Return Signal, another real-time data tool helping truckers know when and where to return empty containers to terminals.

Seroka discussed several challenges in 2020 amidst the pandemic including drayage truck inefficiencies caused by container volume surges. Drayage trucks currently handle about three quarters of all import and export containers moving through the port.

In response, Seroka announced a new Truck Turn-Time and Dual-Transaction Incentive Programme. Starting in February, it will financially reward terminal operators who move containerised cargo faster and more efficiently through their terminals.

Despite the pandemic, the Port of Los Angeles made progress on US$473m in port capital projects, which include eight major terminal, rail and roadway improvements.

The port also moved forward on its goal of zero-emission terminal equipment by 2030 and a zero-emissions drayage fleet by 2035. It currently has 16 demonstration projects underway involving the testing of 134 pieces of advanced equipment, including 78 zero-emissions trucks.