The Port of Long Beach announced Thursday, July 8, that cargo volume has begun leveling off as coronavirus-related restrictions nationwide get lifted, but June’s numbers were still up 20.3% from the same month the previous year.
The port moved 724,297 twenty-foot equivalent units last month, down from 907,216 TEUs in May, which was the port’s best month in history; TEU is the universal measurement for cargo. Port officials attributed the decrease to consumers pivoting to spending at restaurants and bars and on travel instead of online shopping as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
June’s imports rose 18.8% to 357,101 TEUs and exports remained steady, with a slight decrease of 0.5% to 116,947 TEUs, the port said. More than 250,000 empty containers moved through the port, a 36% increase.
“We anticipate e-commerce to drive much of our cargo movement through the rest of 2021 as retailers plan for a busy summer season,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. “However, June serves as an indicator that consumer demand for goods will gradually level off as the national economy continues to open up and services become more widely available.”
The port saw a 38.5% increase in cargo shipments during the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 due to surging demand for household products, electronics and other goods as consumers returned to work. The first half of last year, though, also saw cargo plummet compared to 2019 because of the initial shutdown of the economy once the coronavirus hit the U.S. The second half of 2020 saw the numbers rebound — and skyrocket. That trend has continued since.
“We’re optimistic that this is shaping up to be one of our busiest years on record as we continue to overcome the challenges related to COVID-19,” said Long Beach harbor commission President Frank Colonna. “We will continue to collaborate with our waterfront workers and industry partners to move cargo quickly and efficiently through the supply chain during this time of ongoing economic recovery.”
The neighboring Port of Los Angeles, the busiest in the nation, has not yet released its June numbers.