January Cargo Volumes Up at LA, Long Beach Ports

A COSCO Shipping container vessel at the Port of Long Beach. File photo by Mark Nero.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach started 2024 strong with year-over-year double-digit increases in January, mainly a result of shippers rushing to stock shelves before the start of the Lunar New Year, according to both ports.

The Port of Los Angeles posted its second-busiest January last month, moving 855,652 TEUs. That’s an 18% jump from January 2023 and represents six straight months of year-over-year growth, according to data released Feb. 14.

LA handled 441,763 TEUs in loaded imports, a 19% increase, and processed 126,554 TEUs in loaded exports, a 23% spike from the same time last year. Empties also rose 14% to 287,336 TEUs.

At a media briefing, POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka said two factors contributed to the strong cargo start.

“First, cargo owners have been replenishing inventories and moving goods at a fast clip ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which will slow production in Asia,” he said. “Second, consumer spending and mostly strong economic data continue to accelerate the American economy.”

He added that holiday sales from last season rose by nearly 4%, “with strong job growth and other key indicators trending in a positive direction.”

At Long Beach, the port saw a 17.5% increase in cargo from January 2023 with 674,015 TEUs, according to data released Feb. 14. This is the fifth straight month of year-over-year growth for the Long Beach seaport, which previously saw 13 months of falling cargo volumes.

Imports in January soared 23.5% to 325,339 TEUs, while exports fell 18.1% to 86,525 TEUs year over year. Meanwhile, empties jumped 28% to 262,151 TEUs.

“Retailers stocked their warehouses in January ahead of the slower import activity we typically see during Lunar New Year celebrations,” POLB CEO Mario Cordero said. “We are ready to grow our volumes and hope to see continued growth through 2024 as we gradually recapture market share.”

By Karen Robes Meeks