With reports of extensive backlogs of containerships waiting a week or more to enter the ports in Southern California, it is little surprise that the Port of Long Beach announced record results for January. The strength of the figures demonstrates just how strong the surge in import volumes continues to be at ports with the outlook continuing to be strong.
The Port of Long Beach recorded a nearly 22 percent increase in volume moving 764,006 TEUs. It is the first time the nation’s second-busiest seaport ever handled more than 700,000 TEUs in January. They surpassed the previous record for January set in 2018 by 106,176 TEUs.
Port officials attributed the strong increases to the ongoing rise in online spending by consumers following stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. As with previous months, they reported strong gains in the volume of home improvement items and office equipment as consumers continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As would be expected, the strong gains were with import volumes with grew 17.5 percent to 364,255 TEUs. The increase in export volumes was less than half that of imports. Long Beach said exports climbed seven percent to 116,254 TEUs.
Another indicator of the ongoing imbalance the ports are experiencing was demonstrated by the strong growth in empties returning to Asia. The volume of empties was up by more than a third to 270,221 TEUs. As the container lines are rushing to get boxes back to Asia, shippers in California are started to report a shortage of boxes which is further complicating the already difficult export markets.
Although activity typically slows down in February during overseas celebrations for the Lunar New Year, the Port of Long Beach says that its projections show that February could be busier than usual as unscheduled container ship calls continue to make up for voyages that were canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
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