Cargo Continually Moving Through Long Beach

While congestion has been terrible for quite some time in the Southern California ports, it hasn’t stopped them for making serious progress. The international shipping news headlines these days are always about how many ships are off the coast and how bad the congestion is as those ports, but despite the horrible congestion and slowdowns, the ports of Long Beach and LA are actually moving record-breaking volumes of containers through the terminals.

The news genuinely makes it sound like the ports of LA and Long Beach are at a stand-still, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason there’s so much congestion is because port activity is beyond what they’re currently capable of handling, but the ports are indeed operating at full throttle right now.

Record Import Numbers

Recent numbers show that the port of Los Angeles handled 930,965 TEUs in September which is up 2.3% from 888,625 last year in the same month. Total yearly volume by the end of September was at 8,176,917 TEUs, which is up a stunning 26% since last year at the same time.

During the peak of the insane congestion at the port of Los Angeles, President Joe Biden called for 24/7 staffing and operations at the port. Port officials have sincerely thanked all the truck drivers, terminal operators, longshore workers, warehouse workers, and especially rail workers for the extraordinary efforts made to alleviate the congestion amidst the 24/7 hour operation change.

Exports and Supply Chain Needs

While imports have skyrocketed, exports have seen quite a large hit. Exports were down 42% since last year (a record low since 2002.) Empty containers at the port of LA are also up 28% as they stack up at the wrong end of the supply chain. However, the above numbers aren’t an indication of any failings on the part of Los Angeles port, but are rather indicative of the significant increase in U.S. consumer demand and imports. Less activity is happening on the export side, but much more is happening on the import side.

The mass congestion amidst moving record breaking cargo volumes and 24/7 operations is indicative of long-needed changes to infrastructure and supply chain issues. Officials at the Long Beach Port have said that widening their harbor channels would lead to a major reduction in air pollution, improved vessel navigation, and national economic benefits of nearly $21 million annually.

These suggestions to changes in infrastructure are being heavily recommended by port officials, port workers, political officials, and shipping experts – all of whom suggest the changes would bring about economic benefits, environmental benefits, and the ability to handle more container ships at berths in shorter time spans.

The proposed infrastructure changes recommend deepening LA port channels from 76 to 80 feet, building an approach channel to Pier J South at a 55 foot depth, deepening portions of West Basin from 50 to 55 feet, and structurally improving the breakwaters at Pier J to allow for depths of 55 feet.

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