L.A., Long Beach ports have record-breaking year in 2010
The nation's busiest seaport complex had a record-breaking year in 2010 with new marks set in exports and the biggest year-over-year increase since container traffic record keeping began, said officials at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Experts said they expected a strong economic recovery to continue at the biggest seaports in the U.S. through January, although not at such a rapid pace.
That's great news for the Southern California economy, where trade accounts for more than half a million jobs.
At the Port of Los Angeles, which ranks first in traffic, overall container traffic -- including empties -- rose 16% in 2010 to 7.8 million containers, up from 6.7 million a year earlier. That included a record year for exports at the port of 1.8 million containers, up more than 10% from less than 1.7 million in 2009 and surpassing the previous best of less than 1.8 million in 2008. Imports rose 12.8% to nearly 4 million containers, up from 3.5 million a year earlier.
It was an even better year for the Port of Long Beach, which ranks second in container traffic only to Los Angeles. In 2010, the Long Beach port saw an increase in total traffic of 1.2 million containers to Containerized cargo at the Port of Long Beach increased by 1.2 million units in 2010, the largest single increase of any seaport in the United States, according to numbers released Tuesday.
Long Beach port shipping terminals moved a total of 6.3 million 20-foot equivalent containers last year. The jump represented a nearly 25% gain over 2009, when the port moved less than 5.1 million containers. It was the largest one-year increase in port history, and the biggest gain from 2009 among the nation's major seaports.
After the grim assessments they had to make in 2009, port and city officials were far more enthusiastic this time around.
"With this 16% increase in 2010 container volumes, the Port of Los Angeles is putting people back to work and doing its part to help President Obama meet his goal to double national exports over the next five years,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “This is good news not only for Los Angeles, but cities across the nation."
Los Angeles port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz added “The 2010 volume gains far surpass our initial estimates. We want to continue that momentum."
Over in Long Beach, port Executive Director Richard D. Steinke said "This was a tremendous rebound, and happened much faster than predicted. Best of all, the additional cargo has brought back thousands of port-related jobs throughout the supply chain and we're very optimistic that the job growth in this industry will continue in 2011.”
January is expected to be another strong month for the nation's ports as a whole, with import volumes expected to rise by 8% compared with the same month in 2010, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“While the economy clearly began to recover in 2010 and drove up cargo volume as retail sales improved, maintaining that momentum in 2011 could be difficult,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said, adding “Consumers faced with continued high unemployment are expected to focus more on necessities than discretionary spending. Retailers will continue to carefully gauge consumer demand and adjust import levels accordingly.”
But double-digit increases are much less likely.
“Our projections for 2011 remain firm, albeit not at the levels of the recovery rates of last year,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Growth in the upper single-digit levels can be expected, particularly on the West Coast.”
Hackett Associates tracks trade every month at each of the nation's biggest seaports for the National Retail Federation.
-- Ronald D. White