Following a record-setting January, container volumes recently respectively issued by the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) saw new records being set again, in February, according to data issued by each port.

Total February POLA volume—at 857,764 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—represented a 7.3% annual increase, for the highest-volume February in the port’s 115-year history, topping the previous record set in February 2020.

POLA February imports—at 424,073 TEU—increased 2.4% annually, and loaded exports—at 95,441 TEU—fell 5.7%, with exports declining in 36 of the last 40 months, at POLA. Empty containers saw an 18.6% increase, to 338,251 TEU, with POLA attributing the increase to ongoing levels of Asia-based heavy demand.

On a year-to-date basis through February, POLA volume—at 1,723,360 TEU—is up 5.4% annually.

POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka said on a media conference call this week that February volumes were exceptionally strong.

“Fluidity and velocity on our docks continues to improve,” he said. “Like January, February was another record-breaking month. Growth continues to be driven by imports and empty container repositioning. Even with the rising prices we are all experiencing, we expect to see elevated levels of imports this spring, as e-commerce retailers replenish low inventory, including February’s retails numbers gains, which underscores the strength of this market.”

Addressing empty containers, Seroka said the repositioning back to Asia continues at record levels, which was reflected in February’s data.

“While there will be robust activity on the docks this spring, it will be difficult to match last year’s numbers,” he said. “In 2021, for March, April, and May, POLA averaged 970,000 TEU per month. Expect those numbers to soften some but still remain solid.”

POLB data: February POLB volume—at 796,560 TEU—headed up 3.2% annually, setting a new February record, following a record January.

Imports saw a 4.4% annual increase, to 390,335 TEU, and exports—at 117,935 TEU—were down 1.2%. Empty containers rose 3.5%, to 288,290 TEU.

POLB officials said that although trade typically slows in February as east Asian factories close for up to two weeks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Port was busier than usual due to continued work to clear shipping terminals and reduce the number of vessels waiting to enter the Port. And they added that the effort was boosted by workers returning to the supply chain following a decline in COVID-19 cases.

“We are moving record amounts of cargo and catching up with the ongoing surge of imports,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero in a statement. “Meanwhile, we are proceeding with measures we will need in the long term, such as development of our Supply Chain Information Highway data solution, which provides greater cargo visibility, connectivity and predictability.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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