The Busiest Quarter in the Port’s History


Port of Los Angeles (file photo)


Typical of the increases in activity, yesterday, October 14 the Port of Los Angeles reported it had a total of 16 ships on terminal. That included 14 containerships, one bulk carrier, and a general cargo ship. Also, there were 11 ships at anchor, including four containerships, four tankers, two bulkers, and one laid up cruise ship.

The strong number of vessels arriving at the port helped Los Angeles to achieve record volumes for September and contributed to the busiest quarter in the port’s history. The results followed a strong August giving the port the first two months of year-over-year growth it experienced in 2020. Los Angeles reported a 30 percent increase in run rates for containers passing through the port versus the lows experienced in the spring of 2020.

During September, Los Angeles saw a 13 percent increase in the number of containers passing through the port to 883,625 TEUs. That brought the total for the quarter to more than 2.7 million TEUs. The year-to-date total, however remains down nearly nine percent.

September also marked the first month that Los Angeles saw no cancellations or blank voyages. The port handled a total of 97 ships which included 11 unscheduled voyages added by the carriers responding to the increased demand from shippers. So far in 2020, Los Angeles has seen a total of 31 unscheduled arrivals added by the carriers to their schedules, but that is still less than half the 66 blank voyages the port recorded this year.

The port attributed the strong gains to the replenishment of warehouse and distribution center inventories along with retailers’ efforts to prepare for the upcoming holiday retail season. They noted that consumers are buying again and that encouraged retailers to build inventories.

This demand was reflected in strong import volumes at the Port of Los Angeles. In September, import volumes increased 17 percent year-over-year to 471,795 TEUs, and for the nine months, while volume remains down five percent, the port reached 3.4 million TEUs. 

Another challenge for the port and terminal operators is the increases in the size of vessels. The port said they are averaging more than 10,000 TEUs handled with each containership in the port. In September, the MSC Oliver discharged and loaded more than 30,200 TEUs, the second highest all-time number of TEUs handled in a single ship visit at the Port of Los Angeles.

Seroka also said that the strong volumes the Port of Los Angeles is experiencing have contributed to supply chain complexities. “Surging imports have caused dwell times to increase, with longer turnaround times for trucks and more cargo on our tarmacs,” he admitted. The port has increased its use of forecasting tools helping businesses across the port plan and manage the volumes.

Using those forecasting tools, Seroka said he expects the strong trends experienced in the last two months to continue going forward. He forecast a better than 20 percent increase in TEUs passing through the port in October despite the holiday week in China. He expects a volume of 950,000 TEUs in October and while November will slow month to month he still expects a nearly 10 percent increase in TEUs over last year.

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