The Port of Long Beach in Long Beach Thursday, October 1, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles moved a record number of containers in June amid increased consumer demand and ongoing supply chain backlogs, the agencies announced Wednesday.

In Long Beach, dockworkers and terminal operators moved 835,412 20-foot-equivalent units (the standard measure of a shipping container) last month, surpassing a record set in June 2018 by more than 83,000 TEUs.

The figure represents a 15.3% increase over June of last year.

Imports rose 16.4% to 415,677 TEUs, while exports decreased 1.4% to 115,303 TEUs. Empty containers moving through the port soared 21.6% to 304,433 TEUs.

“We are anticipating a robust summer season as consumer demand continues to drive cargo to our docks,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “We expect to remain moderately busy in the coming months, and we will work to promptly process containers lingering at the port.”

The number of containers sitting on docks for extended periods of time jumped this week after months of more efficient cargo movement, according to port data.

In October, the ports of LA and Long Beach issued a joint statement announcing their plans to impose a “container dwell fee,” but the supply chain responded, and the number of lingering containers significantly diminished and the fee was never implemented. Neither port has said whether or not they will institute the fee now that containers are once again piling up.

At the Port of Los Angeles, 876,611 TEUs were moved last month, surpassing the same month last year as the busiest June ever in the port’s 115-year history. Imports reached 444,680 TEUs, marking a 5% decrease from last year, while remaining 12% higher than the previous five-year June average.

Exports also declined 2.3% to 93,890 TEUs, the port announced. As in Long Beach, however, the number of empty containers increased 8.1% to 338,041 TEUs.

Through June, the Port of LA has moved more than 5.4 million TEUs, matching last year’s record-setting pace, according to the agency. Long Beach, meanwhile, moved just over 5 million in the first half of the year—up 5.3% from the same period last year.

The second quarter (April 1 through June 30) was the Port of Long Beach’s busiest quarter on record, with 2,547,119 containers being moved.

The influx of cargo is due to several reasons, according to port officials. The lifting of pandemic-induced shutdowns in China, retailers restocking and robust e-commerce are all driving the record-setting amount of containers through the ports, they said.

“We’re already beginning to handle back-to-school, fall fashion and year-end holiday goods,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “Despite inflation and higher-than-usual inventory, we expect cargo volume to remain robust the second half of the year.”

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Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.