After the supply chain snarls of the past two years, the amount of cargo coming through the Port of Long Beach is returning to a pre-pandemic normal, port officials said Wednesday, but the increased volumes that typically come in mid- to late summer may not arrive until fall.

While final numbers weren’t yet in for May, the port expects to have moved about 720,000 20-foot equivalent units (or TEUs, the standard measure of a shipping container) for the month, port Executive Director Mario Cordero said in an online press conference.

That’s about 15% fewer containers than passed through the port in May 2022, but cargo volumes in 2021 and 2022 saw “unusual fluctuations,” and the latest data suggests this year will look more like 2019, Cordero said.

“It brings up optimism that we will continue to see some growth in the remainder of this year,” he said.

For the rest of 2023, officials anticipate the port will move an average of 700,000 TEUs per month, and their optimistic projection is to top out at 9.3 million TEUs for the year, which would be a slight increase compared with 2022 and about 22% more than the 7.6 million units moved in 2019.

The ramp-up to peak season, when goods for back-to-school and holiday shopping start to arrive, usually begins in July or August, but Cordero said the Port of Long Beach may not see that increase until September.

Noel Hacegaba, the port’s deputy executive director, warned that while consumers may find store shelves full of goods, they won’t necessarily be the things people want because some older inventory is still hanging around and warehouses in the Inland Empire are “full, but full of the wrong stuff.”

“So trying to hit the right season with the right commodity continues to be a challenge,” he said.

Cordero expressed confidence that the Port of Long Beach would soon reclaim its ranking as second-busiest U.S. seaport; the Port of Los Angeles continues at number one, but last year the Port of New York and New Jersey knocked Long Beach down to third place.

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