Empty containers and continued import surge break Port of Los Angeles traffic record

Port of Los Angeles enjoys record volume

The Port of Los Angeles has announced its February TEU traffic increased by 47% year-on-year (YoY), the seventh successive month of volume increases as the heavy traffic on the West Coast of the US continues.

In a statement, the Port said it handled 799,315 TEU and that figures marked its busiest February figures ever. Imports reached 412,884 TEU YoY, while exports plummeted by 24.7%.

Exports of empty containers, for which there is immense demand in Asia, jumped by 104% YoY, reaching 285,223 TEU.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka pointed to changing trade landscape since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One year ago global trade slowed to a crawl as the COVID-19 pandemic first hit China and then spread worldwide,” Seroka said.

“Today, we are in the seventh month of an unparalleled import surge, driven by unprecedented demands by American consumers.

 “Our challenges now are focused on getting port workers vaccinated and assisting stakeholders in managing this heavy flow of cargo,” Seroka added.

“We will do everything we can to help get shipping lines back on schedule. It’s critical that we clear the backlog of cargo and return more certainty to the Pacific trade.”

The heavy volume demonstrates that the surge in demand from US consumers shows little sign of abating, and that traffic on the US West Coast will most likely remain at current levels for most of the first half of 2021.

Many of the US’ largest gateways have come under subsequent pressure since the middle of 2020 when China reopened factories and resumed exporting across the Pacific.

This has caused severe congestions across the US supply chain as ports and other stakeholders have struggled to cope with demand, including truckers and distribution hubs.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently predicted that import traffic increase by record amounts until at least the middle of 2021.

Some industry experts have called upon the US federal government to take action against companies that have allegedly exacerbated the crisis by breaking contracts to export agricultural goods and instead choosing to send empty containers back to China.

In March 2021, more than 100 US congress members signed a letter to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), urging action against container shipping liners.

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