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Port of Long Beach sees busy October despite cargo congestion

The Port of Long Beach marked its second-busiest October on record last month, despite capacity limitations at marine terminals that have impeded cargo flows at the port.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 789,716 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), down 2.1% from the same month last year, which was the port’s strongest October on record. Imports decreased 4.3% to 385,000 TEUs, while exports increased 6.6% to 122,214 TEUs. Empty containers moved through the port declined 2.4% to 282,502 TEUs.

“Every sector of the supply chain has reached capacity and it is time for all of us to step up and get these goods delivered,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero.

Port officials, state legislators and the federal government have implemented several programs to combat the backlog at the San Pedro Bay ports in recent weeks, including an initiative to identify vacant land where containers can be stored, an ongoing transition to expanded hours of operation at terminals, and implementing a fee to push ocean carriers to remove their containers from the port more quickly.

“We’re doing everything we can with help from the supply chain to get goods off the ships and onto store shelves in time for the holidays,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal.

The fee on containers left behind at the port appears to be showing early results. Since it was enacted on Nov. 1, the number of loaded import containers dwelling at the port has decreased by 20%, officials said.

Experts say one reason for the enormous backlog of ships idling in the bay has been a significant increase in online shopping during the pandemic. Consumer spending slightly lagged in early fall, but remains above pre-pandemic levels, port officials said.

In total, the Port of Long Beach has moved 7,884,565 TEUs during the first 10 months of 2021, up 21% from the same period in 2020. According to officials, the port is on pace to move more than 9 million TEUs by the end of this year, surpassing the current record of 8.1 million TEUs in 2020.

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