Ports of Los Angeles, Oakland set April container volume records


The ports of Los Angeles and Oakland both had their busiest April ever for container throughput as the US West Coast remained inundated by imports from Asia, the ports said May 13.

The Port of Los Angeles was making progress in reducing the queue of ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay, handling 946,966 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in April, up by 37.2% year on year and its fourth highest ever monthly volume.

Total throughput at the Port of Oakland in April increased by 8% year on year to 217,993 TEUs as it attracted more import volumes from Southern California, passing 100,000 TEUs of loaded imports for the first time but generating a ship queue of its own.

Boost in labor force

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said a critical mass of longshoremen have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which has helped to boost the labor force and brought dwell times at the port down to 8.9 days in April from 11 days in March.

“We have cut the number of ships at anchor by two-thirds, but we still have to hustle since we will soon be back at the start of peak season in August,” Seroka said.

Loaded import volumes at the Port of Oakland rose to an all-time high at 100,096 TEUs in April as ships were diverted from the congested Los Angeles/Long Beach complex and shipping lines CMA CGM and Wan Hai launched services directly to Oakland from East Asia.

“We’re sounding like a broken record, but containerized trade continues to flourish as the US economy rebounds,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said. “And as we’ve said before, there doesn’t seem to be a letup in sight.”

Length of waits

The wait for ships to berth at the Port of Oakland climbed to 10-15 days as of May 6, compared with 10-13 days at Long Beach and five-six days at Los Angeles, according to a customer advisory from Danish shipping firm Maersk. The spillover also extended waiting times at the West Coast ports of Seattle and Vancouver to four and seven days, respectively.

Platts Container Rate 13 — North Asia to West Coast North America — was assessed on May 13 at $4,700/FEU, an increase of 185% from the year-ago date as demand greatly exceeded carrying capacity.