“Freight continues to move at a record pace and may not be slowing down any time soon,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach.

The port of San Pedro Bay in California recorded its busiest April in its history. Its neighbor, the Port of Los Angeles, had the second April in its history, even though it saw a drop in cargo volume year-on-year. But April’s best performances were in ports on the Gulf and Eastern coasts.

Last month, the Port of Long Beach moved 820,718 twenty-foot equivalent units, up 10% from the previous record set in April 2021. Imports were up 9.2% year-over-year to 400,803 TEUs, while exports fell 1.8% to 121,876 TEUs.

FreightWaves’ SONAR displays a monthly view of TEUs cleared by US Customs over a seven-day average.

Empty containers moved saw the largest increase, 16.9% year-on-year, to 298,039 TEUs.

The port handled 3,281,377 TEUs in the first four months of 2022, an increase of 5.1% over the same period in 2021.

Cordero said the port isn’t planning on lazy summer days.

“We are preparing for a likely increase in the summer as China recovers from an extended shutdown due to COVID-19,” he said in the port’s volume report. “Shippers are quickly moving imports and empties from docks, terminals are staying open longer, and we’re working to finalize our new Supply Chain Information Highway data tracking solution.”

Stable transpacific flows

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said in a press release on Tuesday that trans-Pacific trade “has remained steady” despite COVID lockdowns in China.

The Port of LA handled 887,357 TEUs in April. The port’s busiest April occurred last year, when it carried 946,966 TEUs.

FreightWaves’ latest product, Container Atlas, shows ocean volumes from March through May 1.

The more than 3.5 million TEUs transported in the first four months of 2022 at the Port of LA is 1% ahead of last year’s record pace.

The port reported declines. Imports loaded in April totaled 456,670 TEUs, down 6.8% year-on-year. Loaded exports totaled 99,878 TEUs, down 12.7% from April 2021.

While the number of empty containers moved at the Port of Long Beach increased by more than 15%, the Port of Los Angeles recorded a 3.4% year-over-year decline, handling 330,810 TEUs of empties .

Cordero’s statement about moving cargo at a record pace applies especially to ports outside of California. The Georgia Ports Authority reported Tuesday that its April container volumes rose 6.2% year over year and had the third busiest month in its history. South Carolina Ports has set cargo records for 14 consecutive months. April was the second busiest month in Virginia Port Norfolk’s history. And Port Houston announced on Tuesday that it had its busiest April ever, with 334,493 TEUs handled, a 21% year-over-year increase.

McCown’s Capture

“The 10 largest U.S. ports saw inbound box volume increase 7.1% in April, up from the 3.5% gain in March but below the 13.7% gain in February,” wrote marine expert John McCown in The McCown Report.

April’s overall inbound volume in the top 10 ports of 2,189,744 TEUs was the third highest total on record and just 1.8% below the record of 2,230,919 TEUs set a month earlier, said McCown.

“April was the 11th consecutive month in which the year-over-year percentage change in volume at East Coast/Gulf ports exceeded West Coast ports,” he said. note. “In April, there was a coastal gap of 22.1 percentage points resulting from an 18.7% gain in East Coast/Gulf ports and a 3.4% decline in Ports of the West Coast. This is the fourth highest monthly gap on record in these measures and larger than the average difference of 16.6 percentage points over the 11-month period.

He attributed the stronger relative performance of Gulf and East Coast ports to the initial increase in volume from the pandemic which disproportionately benefited West Coast ports and impacted comparisons; shippers rerouting cargo to “avoid widely reported congestion” in Los Angeles and Long Beach; and lower liner costs from the Gulf and East Coasts compared to intermodal service across the country from the West Coast.

The McCown report covers volumes in major US ports. (Graphic: John McCown)

Redirected Shanghai Volume

April was a strong month at U.S. ports as total container volume in China fell just 2.5%, McCown said.

“As a result of the Shanghai COVID-related lockdown, the Port of Shanghai, the world’s largest container port, experienced a 25% reduction in volume in April. However, with seven of the world’s 10 largest container ports in China, that volume has been redirected,” he explained.

According to McCown, the US ports with the best performance in April were Charleston, SC, up 34%; Houston, up 26.5%; and New York/New Jersey, up 22.4%.

“The weakest performance in April came in Seattle/Tacoma, down 20.1%; Oakland, down 15.8%; and Los Angeles, down 6.2%,” he wrote.

McCown predicts May’s numbers “will likely show an overall decline as they are measured against the busiest month on record for West Coast ports in May 2021.”

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Click here for more articles on American Shipper/FreightWaves by Editor-in-Chief Kim Link-Wills.

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