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May POLA and POLB volumes earn spots in the ports’ record books

May volumes, for the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB) each earned a spot in the port’s record books, according to data sequence issued by the ports over the last week.

Total May POLA volume—at 967,900 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—was off 4.36% annually. Even with the annual decrease, this tally marked the third-highest-volume month in POLA’s 115 years of operations, following April’s 887,357 TEU, which was the second-highest April for POLA. The two highest-volume months at POLA are May 2021, at 1,012,048 TEU, and October 2020, at 980,729 TEU.

POLA May imports—at 499,960 TEU—was off 6.8% annually but topped the previous five-year May average by 21%. Exports—at 125,656—saw a 14.4% annual increase, while its highest level going back to November 2020. And empty containers— hitting 342,285 TEU—fell 6.6% annually.

Through the first five months of 2022, total POLA volume—at 4,537,291 TEU—is essentially flat, off 0.31% annually.

On a media conference call this week, POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka attributed earlier May’s strong volumes to retailers across a wide section of 125,000 importing companies continuing to replenish inventories and keep up with the American consumer’s buying demands.

“While consumer strength is strong, we are looking directly into the eyes of high inflation numbers, at 8.6% [for May] and producer prices at a 10.8% jump,” he said. “And while we are all cost-minded and feel it at the pump and at the grocery store, we are going to continue to buy. Our high level of savings accounts, at more than $2 trillion nationwide, are also met with revolving credits $1.2 trillion across the country. That is the amount of money on our credit cards we are paying off each month. We will continue to watch this consumer activity but also a number of other areas, including manufacturing, jobs creation, and the work of the second quarter economy.”

What’s more, Seroka highlighted how in May POLA staffers by setting another productivity milestone, averaging nearly 12,000 TEU loaded off and back on to each vessel, topping the previous record set last summer, at 11,300 TEU. Seroka said that this “exchange rate” is viewed as the best in the business.

Addressing May imports, Seroka explained that while many Americans worked from home during the pandemic, consumers bought more furniture, appliances, and fixtures, to update their bathrooms and kitchens.

“That is not something that is going to happen every year,” he said. “But the retail sales of finished goods remain strong, and the parts and components going into American factories are equally as impressive.”

As for exports, he said the May tally represents some overdue good news, but after a three-plus year decline, he said there is still a lot of work to do.

“One month does not make a trend,” he said. “We are going to continue to go all out on this issue from Washington to Sacramento and right here at home in Los Angeles.”

Looking at May empties, Seroka said that empties remain elevated, as imports remain high from Asia to Los Angeles, and the need to turn containers around quickly from Los Angeles to Asia is strong.

POLB data: Total May POLB volume came in at 890,989 TEU, down 1.8% compared to May 2021, POLB’s highest-volume month in its 111 years of operations, while posting its second-highest-volume month in POLB history.

Imports—at 436,977 TEU—fell 1.7% annually, and exports—at 118,234 TEU—fell 12.6%, for the same period. Empty containers headed up 2.6%, to 335,778 TEU.

Through the first five months of 2022, POLB volume—at 4,172,366 TEU—is up 3.5% annually.

“We are moving an extraordinary amount of cargo and continue to work with industry partners to quickly move imports and empties off the docks,” said POLB Executive Director Mario Cordero in a statement. “Looking ahead, we are ready for the traditional summertime surge to coincide with China’s recovery from a lengthy lockdown.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handlingand Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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