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Port of Long Beach posts busiest January on record as trans-Pacific imports surge

Highlights

Empty exports increased in Jan. as imbalances persist

2020 marked busiest year in port history

Houston — The Port of Long Beach had the busiest first month of the year on record, with 764,006 twenty-foot equivalent units moved, as North American demand for containerized goods remained firm, the port said Feb. 4.

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January throughput represents a 21.9% increase when compared with the same month last year.

Loaded container imports increased by 17.5% to 364,255 TEUs.

"Online spending continued to climb in January for home improvement items and office equipment as consumers continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic," the port said in a statement Feb. 4.

And trans-Pacific container rates have reflected the firm consumer demand seen throughout second-half 2020. Platts Container Rate 13 – North Asia to West Coast North America – was assessed Feb. 4 at $4,200/FEU, up significantly from the $1,400/FEU assessment one year ago.

At the same time, empty exports grew significantly during January, when 270,221 empty boxes were sent overseas, an increase of nearly 35%.

This has been a common theme for many container gateways in North America, as ocean liners attempt to correct equipment imbalances by quickly returning empty boxes to North Asia for reloading, often at the expense of American exporters.

H2 2020 volumes lead to record

This comes as Port of Long beach had the busiest year in its 109-year record, with just over 8.1 million TEUs moved through its container terminals in 2020.

Despite having year-on-year volume decreases for the first 4 months of 2020, the port saw significant rebounds in H2 2020, with six months of consecutive year-on-year growth, culminating with December as the busiest month in port history, with 815,885 TEUs moved.

The Port of Los Angeles is the second busiest gateway in North America, behind the adjacent port of Los Angeles.