Port of Long Beach reports disappointing container throughput numbers

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor · July 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to drive down demand for goods in the second quarter of 2020, leading to an increase in canceled sailings and a decline in cargo containers shipped through the Port of Long Beach in June.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 602,180 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last month, an 11.1% decline compared to June 2019. Imports shrank 9.3% to 300,714 TEUs and exports dropped 12.2% to 117,538 TEUs. Empty containers shipped overseas to Asia were down 13.1% to 183,928 TEUs.

As LM noted this week, Port of Oakland loaded import volume grew 1.9 percent last month from June 2019.

In Long Beach, however, port spokesmen said that economic uncertainty brought by decreased consumer spending and ongoing health concerns amid COVID-19 epidemic contributed to a drop during the first half of 2020, with cargo shipments at 3,433,035 TEUs, 6.9% less than the same period last year.

“Canceled sailings continued to rise at a rapid rate in the second quarter as ocean carriers adjusted their voyages to a decline in demand for imports during the national COVID-19 outbreak,” said Mario Cordero, Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. “The economic challenges may persist for some time, but the Port of Long Beach continues to invest in infrastructure projects that will meet the needs of our customers.”

The San Pedro Bay ports complex – Long Beach and L.A. combined – had 41 canceled sailings in the first half of 2019. This year it was 104 – 37 of which were destined for the Port of Long Beach.

Canceled sailings are projected t o significantly recede as the traditional holiday peak shipping season ramps up during the third quarter. The San Pedro Bay ports anticipate five canceled voyages over the next three months — one of which was scheduled for the Port of Long Beach. No blank sailings were reported by both ports during the same period last year.

Some encouraging news was also declared by port spokesmen, however.

Despite overall cargo declines in June, the Port of Long Beach achieved a “triple crown” last month, when three separate terminals and the ILWU workforce reached new levels for each terminal’s ship-to-shore cargo moves.

The “Top 20 U.S. Port Report,” recently released by Descartes Datamyne, shared this insight with LM:

Import volume into the Port of Long Beach fell throughout 2019 with a total decline of nearly 400k total TEUs or 9.67%. Much like the Port of Los Angeles, this drop is largely the result of reduced shipments from China, with imports from the country falling by 20.15%.

The decline of import values was even more robust than that of the overall volume. The total FOB value of imports into the Port of Long Beach fell 17.59% to a total of $61.7B.

Petroleum Oil [HS 2709] remains the top product by value imported to Long Beach, with a total FOB value reaching $5.9B. This is also a substantial decline of 10.6% from 2018 as increased production has reduced demand and the average price per barrel lowered $7/b compared to the 2018 average.

July 10, 2020