The Matson Kauai navigates the main channel as it departs the Port of Long Beach at sunset Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Continued inflation and aggressive rate hikes by the Federal Reserve have caused consumers to grow cautious, resulting in tempered cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach, officials said Tuesday.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 741,823 20-foot equivalent units (the standard measure of a shipping container) in September, a nearly 1% decrease from the same month last year, which was the port’s second-busiest September in its 111-year history.

“Consumers and retailers are concerned about inflation, leading to warehouses filled with inventory and fewer product orders from Asia,” Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. “The respite is leading to increased capacity on the docks and fewer ships waiting off the coast to enter the Port.”

Imports into Long Beach decreased 7.4% to 342,671 TEUs, while exports increased 1.9% to 112,940 TEUs. The number of empty containers moving through the port jumped 7% to 286,212 TEUs.

Amid the pandemic, increased e-commerce and equipment shortages—among other issues—caused a severe bottleneck at the San Pedro Bay ports that resulted in a backlog of ships that reached 106 in January of this year. The backlog was seven as of Monday and has been below 10 for most of the last month, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

The congestion caused pollution out of the twin ports to increase, despite years of efforts by both agencies to decrease emissions.

The port has moved 7,342,383 TEUs from January through September, up 3.5% from the same period last year—2021 was a record year. During the third quarter, however, container volumes were down 0.3% compared to the same quarter last year.

“We appreciate our longshore labor, marine terminal operators, truckers and all of our other industry partners who continue to move cargo quickly, reliably and sustainably,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon Weissman said in a statement. “We’re hoping to close the year on a positive note that focuses on our efforts to improve cargo flow while dramatically enhancing air quality.”

Air pollution from Port of Long Beach increased amid pandemic congestion, report shows

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