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Port of Los Angeles Sees Busiest May in History; Imports Climb Double Digits

The peak shipping season brought on by back-to-school hasn’t yet started and the Port of Los Angeles is already experiencing record-high cargo volumes.

May marked the port’s busiest in history as cargo volumes jumped 11 percent over the same period last year.

Imports were up 15 percent in the month to 400,765 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) while exports rose 6.3% to 162,487 TEUs. Overall in May, the port handled 770,409 TEUs.

“The strong growth both on the import and export side is encouraging as we continue to explore ways to improve supply chain efficiencies,” the port’s executive director, Gene Seroka, said.

Year to date, cargo volumes are up 8.7% to 3,457,569 TEUs compared to the same time in 2015.

“The unwavering efforts of our supply chain partners, including organized labor, has had a significant impact on our success,” Seroka said.

Neighboring Port of Long Beach fared similarly in May with cargo volume growth a smaller 0.8% but still bringing the port to its second busiest May in history. Imports were up 1 percent to 330,639 TEUs and exports were up 2 percent to 138,594 TEUs. Overall volume for May totaled 640,566 TEUs and for the first five months of the year volumes are down 1.5%.

The Long Beach port said its numbers are in line with the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) expectations considering that U.S. stores are still holding excess inventory, which has muted ocean trade.

“The year-over-year comparisons to 2015 are difficult to make, given the unusual patterns last year when the industry ramped up activity following the congestion slowdowns at the start of that year,” the Long Beach port noted in a statement.

The Port of New York and New Jersey hasn’t yet reported numbers for May but in April, imports were down 2.6% to 244,677 TEUs and exports were down 8.1% to 114,824 TEUs.

What remains to be seen is how the opening of the expanded Panama Canal later this month will affect ports on the west. Since the new canal will be able to handle bigger ships and some carriers are starting to reroute goods coming from Asia to the East Coast ports.

Shipping capacity from Asia to the West Coast is expected to fall 3 percent while capacity to the East Coast is projected up 4 percent, World Maritime News reported, citing data from shipping research firm Alphaliner.