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Port of Long Beach marks record year after imports spike

Port of Long Beach marks record year after imports spike
Port of Long Beach

The Port of Long Beach handled 8.1m teu in 2020, marking its busiest year on record, as a surge in imports in the latter part of the year offset previous canceled sailings caused by the pandemic.

December saw volumes jump by 23%, with imports leaping 26% as retailers stocked their shelves for the holiday shopping season, making up for lost time earlier in the year.

Over the year as a whole, imports rose by 6% to almost 4m teu, exports totaled 1.5m teu remaining at previous levels, while empty containers increased by 10% to 2.6m teu.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said: “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.”

Long Beach Harbour Commission President Frank Colonna stated: “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.”

The port suffered a 7% decline in cargo in the first half of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove down consumer demand for goods, resulting in 37 blanked sailings.

Across the San Pedro Bay ports complex – Long Beach and Los Angeles combined – there were 104 canceled sailings in the first six months of the year, up from 41 in the first half of 2019.

However, demand spiked in the second half of the year, with preliminary estimates indicating that the port had 104 unscheduled container ship calls, making up for previous cancelations, and quadrupling 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 as consumers endured shelter-in-place orders and worked from home during lockdowns.

The late surge in volumes means that December was the busiest month in the Port of Long Beach’s 110-year history while Q4 2020 marks its most active quarter ever.