Port of Long Beach reports decrease in demand for goods due to coronavirus pandemic

Ships dock at the Port of Long Beach’s Pier A at sunset.

Port of Long Beach officials said Friday, July, 10 that the COVID-19 pandemic continued to drive down demand for goods in the second quarter of 2020, leading to an increase in canceled sailings and a decline in cargo containers coming through the shipyard.

“Canceled sailings continued to rise at a rapid rate in the second quarter as ocean carriers adjusted their voyages to a decline in demand for imports during the national COVID-19 outbreak,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said. “The economic challenges may persist for some time, but the Port of Long Beach continues to invest in infrastructure projects that will meet the needs of our customers.”

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 602,180 cargo units in June, an 11.1% decline compared to June 2019. Imports shrank 9.3% to 300,714 units and exports dropped 12.2% to 117,538 units. Empty containers shipped overseas to Asia were down 13.1% to 183,928 units, the port stated.

Economic uncertainty brought by decreased consumer spending and ongoing health concerns amid the pandemic contributed to a drop during the first half of 2020, with cargo shipments at 3,433,035 units, 6.9% less than the same period last year.

The San Pedro Bay ports complex — the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined — had 41 canceled sailings in the first half of 2019. This year it was 104, and 37 were destined for the Port of Long Beach, the ports reported.

Canceled sailings are projected to significantly recede as the traditional holiday peak shipping season ramps up during the third quarter, the San Pedro Bay ports anticipate five canceled voyages over the next three months, one of which was scheduled for the Port of Long Beach. During the same period last year, neither port experienced any “blank sailings,” which, rather than a full cancellation, could mean a cargo container skipping a port or multiple ports.

Despite overall cargo declines in June, three separate terminals and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union workforce reached new levels for each terminal’s ship-to-shore cargo moves, port officials said.

“Our overall cargo numbers may be down, but records continue to be broken thanks to the hard work and collaboration of terminal operators and dockworkers,” Long Beach Harbor Commission President Bonnie Lowenthal said.

“The economic recovery is going to take some time, but we are optimistic for the future of the port and our partnerships with labor and the entire goods movement industry.”

For detailed cargo numbers, go to polb.com/statistics.

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