The ports of Los Angeles and Oakland reported surges in import cargo last month, as trade continues to bounce back from the pandemic-driven lows of a year ago.
Officials in Los Angeles reported a nearly 53% year-over-year increase in loaded imports during the month and a 47% increase in total cargo processed through the port. Officials said the port processed 799, 315 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), marking the strongest February on record.
“One year ago, global trade slowed to a crawl as the Covid-19 pandemic first hit China and then spread worldwide,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement Wednesday. “Today, we are in the seventh month of an unparalleled import surge, driven by unprecedented demands by American consumers.”
In Oakland, imports roared back from a January decline, rising more than 26% percent year-over-year. Imports had fallen 12% in January, primarily due to congestion at Southern California ports that delayed Oakland arrivals, officials said. The port handled 80,200 import containers during the month, marking its busiest February on record. Officials credited strong consumer spending for the rebound.
“It’s what we expected,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said in a statement Monday. “Oakland continues to benefit from an unrelenting trade boom. We also completed the assembly of three new giant cranes, which will further improve efficiency.”
Strong import volume is expected through at least the second quarter of 2021, Oakland officials also said, adding that retailers, manufacturers, and e-commerce distributors continue to drive the surge.
Although cargo volume is growing, Oakland officials said ship arrivals are down 26% as shipping lines consolidate cargo on fewer vessels to cut operating costs and continued disruption at Southern ports causes some ships to miss Oakland calls. They said exports were down in February as well, falling 26% as scarce vessel space hindered exporters attempting to ship cargo overseas.
Loaded exports were down in Los Angeles as well, falling nearly 25% compared to a year ago. Empty containers, which are heavily in demand in Asia, surged 104% in L.A. compared to a year ago, reaching 285,223 TEUs.
Further north, the Port of Vancouver USA reported a record-breaking 2020, saying it moved more than 7 million metric tons of commodities during the year, with energy infrastructure components leading the way. Officials said the port saw the highest returns in its 108-year history, with revenues totaling $50 million, a 15% increase over 2019.
In addition to wind energy components, the port moved more than 5 million metric tons of grain, 300,000 metric tons of copper concentrate, and nearly 90,000 automobiles, with a record number of 3,350 autos received on a single vessel in October.