LOS ANGELES – Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka had a message for shippers facing rising congestion at East Coast ports during his monthly briefing on Wednesday: “Our terminals have capacity.”
The U.S.’s largest container port has thinned the lengthy, 109-ship queue to enter its terminals by 88%, with just over a dozen vessels in line as of July, Seroka noted.
The port’s cargo numbers have kept pace with 2021, its busiest year on record, with 6.35 million TEUs to date, Seroka said. The port director noted, however, that he expects imports to ease this month.
“Thanks to the efforts of so many, the supply chain landscape in Southern California has greatly improved,” he said. “At many other ports around the country, ships are waiting for space. … For cargo owners looking to rechart their course, come to Los Angeles.”
The Port of Los Angeles set its fifth monthly cargo record in seven months in July, handling 935,345 TEUs of cargo, a 5% increase YoY, Seroka said.
Imports rose 3.5% YoY to 485,472 TEUs, Seroka said. The port handled 103,497 TEUs of exports, a 13.5% increase from July 2021. Heightened levels of empty containers continue to be repositioned to Asia for the next wave of imports, resulting in a 5% increase in empties.
The data could change slightly following a cross-check of one vessel, Seroka added.
Rail congestion remains a challenge, as inland rail terminals in the Midwest face many of the same issues that caused congestion at the port last year, Seroka said: “Stacks of cargo, folks not picking it up quick enough, and importers who are allowing containers to dwell for longer periods of time than they normally do.”
The issue is contributing to the heightened number of long-dwelling containers at the port. More than 33,700 shipping containers designated for rail are sitting at the Port of Los Angeles docks, a number that typically should be closer to 9,000, Seroka said.
“We're working with cargo owners on the input side of the business, large and small,” Seroka said. “Because while some may not need their cargo right now — they've possibly ordered just-in-case, not just-in-time — there are other small-to-medium-sized companies that need their boxes every single day, and we can't get them intertwined with the cargo that's at rest.”