Continuing a trend that saw the Port of Long Beach lose its ranking as the second-busiest container port in the U.S., the port saw a sharp decline in cargo last month, marking its slowest January in six years.

Dockworkers and terminal operators last month moved 573,772 20-foot equivalent units, the standard measure of shipping containers. The figure represents a 28.4% decrease from January 2021, which was a record month, with the port moving 800,943 TEUs.

January cargo volumes have grown steadily over the past three years, but last month was the slowest since the port moved 536,188 TEUs in 2016.

One cause for the decline, according to port officials, is a decrease in consumer spending due to prices being driven up by inflation. The result is a decrease in cargo nationwide.

Another factor, however, is the loss of West Coast ports’ market share to Gulf Coast and East Coast facilities. After decades as the second-busiest container port in the country, Long Beach was bumped to third by the Port of New York and New Jersey, which had a record year in 2022, moving over 900,000 TEUs for the first time in the facility’s 101-year history.

“We are taking aggressive steps to meet a new set of challenges for the new year,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “I remain optimistic that we will recapture market share and develop projects that will enhance our long-term growth, sustainable operations and the reliable movement of goods through the Port of Long Beach.”

The Port of Los Angeles retained the top spot for the year, but the East Coast agency was the busiest port for four months last year.

During his annual State of the Port address last month, Cordero congratulated New York-New Jersey on its efforts. Cordero’s remarks were centered around advancing the port’s environmental initiatives—efforts that could attract more companies to the Long Beach port, officials say.

“We’re confident we will grow cargo volume by working with our industry stakeholders,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon Weissman said in a statement. “We are focused on investing in infrastructure projects that will improve air quality and make us more competitive.”

New York-New Jersey officially overtakes Long Beach as 2nd busiest U.S. seaport

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