San Pedro overlooking the Vincent Thomas bridge over the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach Thursday, October 1, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Cargo volume at the Port of Los Angeles in October fell to its lowest volume for the month since 2009, officials announced today, with ongoing labor negotiations with West Coast port workers among the factors that has shippers routing cargo to other ports.

The port, coming off the busiest calendar year in history in 2021, handled 678,429 20-foot equivalent units (the standard measure of a shipping container) in October—a 25% dip from last October.

“The November numbers will be soft and so will December here in Los Angeles,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

The Port of Long Beach, meanwhile, moved 658,428 TEUs in October, a decrease of 16.6% from the same month last year.

Regularly ranked the first and second busiest ports in the U.S., LA and Long Beach may be overtaken in total cargo volume this year by the Port of New York and New Jersey, which outperformed the San Pedro Bay in both August and September.

The East Coast port has not published its October cargo volumes.

Los Angeles also reported 20 canceled sailings in October, and estimates another 20 combined cancellations over November and December.

Seroka, in a briefing Tuesday, also blamed the low numbers on some shipments being delivered in June and July—which he referred to as the “peak season”—well ahead of the normal holiday cycle. He added that consumers were no longer purchasing durable items such as furniture and appliances en masse like they were when the coronavirus pandemic began.

Talks involving employers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents at least 20,000 port workers on the West Coast, have been ongoing since their contract expired in July.

Seroka said he has been speaking to both parties regularly and that traditionally, labor negotiations in the shipping industry can be lengthy.

“It takes time,” he said. “Although it’s gone on longer than many of us like, it’s hard work, but it’s got to get done right.”

Seroka said a labor agreement would provide the marketplace with more confidence.

“Even though both sides have put out two jointly signed media releases stating they will not strike nor lock out, there’s still skepticism,” Seroka said. “That’s why this has got to be anchored and bring that marketplace back to a level where they feel that certainty of a cargo flow and getting to market on time.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also spoke at the briefing, said he was confident that workers would not strike.

“I know the players,” Garcetti said. “I know their hearts. I know they’ve got some issues to work out that can sometimes be dramatic in the end, but I have great confidence in them. The disagreement or any distance or remaining issues are so much more minor than past years, where we’ve been able to resolve.”

The mayor added that he also had confidence that “if you’re booking L.A. that you will confidently get your cargo moved.”

Staff writer Brandon Richardson contributed to this report.