Two ships sit berthed at the Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor at the Port of Long Beach Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Dockworkers and terminal operators at the Port of Long Beach fell short of setting a new record for cargo movement in August, officials announced Thursday.

Last month, crews moved 806,940 20-foot-equivalent units, the standard measure for a shipping container, which is down just 746, or 0.1%, from last year’s record-setting August.

“I commend our dockworkers for their continued hard work to keep goods moving through the Port,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon Weissman said in a statement. “Our reputation as a primary gateway for trans-Pacific trade relies on our ability to ensure the secure and speedy shipment of goods.”

Imports into Long Beach were down 5.6% to 384,530 TEUs compared to August 2021, while exports increased 1.6% to 121,408 TEUs. The number of empty containers moved also increased by 7.2% to 301,001 TEUs.

Across the San Pedro Bay, the Port of Los Angeles saw a more drastic decline in August, Executive Director Gene Seroka announced during a press conference Thursday morning. Last month, Los Angeles moved 806,000 TEUs, a 15% decrease from the same month the year before.

During his remarks, Seroka said about 40,000 TEUs were diverted from LA to Long Beach in August due to union discussions over “health and safety measures around the automated area” that “should be resolved very soon.” Another 60,000-80,000 TEUs could be diverted to Long Beach during September, he added.

“That will be temporary,” Seroka said. “We want to keep the cargo flowing for the American people.”

Seroka also noted that the San Pedro Bay ports have lost some freight to the East Coast in large part because of the ongoing negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. The labor contract expired in July, but work has continued at the West Coast ports.

Some companies were “hedging their bets,” Seroka said, noting the severe bottleneck of ships at the San Pedro Bay ports earlier this year.

“We’ll continue to raise the competitiveness bar,” Seroka said. “We’ll continue to fight for every piece of freight we can get.”

While Long Beach missed the mark in August, it has set cargo records in six of the last eight months, officials said. Through August, the port has moved 6,600,560 TEUs, a 4% increase from the same period as last year, which saw the most cargo moved through Long Beach in the port’s 111-year history.

“We’re making great strides in reducing the number of ships queuing to enter the San Pedro Bay ports complex and quickly moving imports and empty containers out of the terminals,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement.

As of Thursday, there were 11 container ships awaiting their turn at berths at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, according to Seroka. This is down from a record of 109 ships in January of this year, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

“We are collaborating with stakeholders to provide more information, more space and more flexibility across the supply chain,” Cordero said.

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