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1 month, 1 million-plus containers at Port of LA

Latest milestone recorded in series of best performances

The Port of Los Angeles handled more than 1 million twenty-foot equivalent units in May, setting another record. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Port of Los Angeles announced Tuesday that it had earned the distinction as the first port in the Western Hemisphere to handle more than 1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in a single month.

May was the busiest month in the 114-year history of the United States’ busiest port. The Port of LA moved a total of 1,012,248 TEUs, up 74% from May 2020, when COVID-19 had stalled global trade. 

The Port of Long Beach and South Carolina Ports Authority last week also reported record Mays. And the Georgia Ports Authority announced it had had 10 consecutive months of growth and turned in its second-busiest month ever. 

One “most” figure that sticks out in the Port of LA’s May numbers: “Empty containers climbed to 366,448 TEUs, a jump of 114% compared to last year due to the heavy demand in Asia. It was the most empties ever processed in a month at the port,” Tuesday’s announcement said. 

At the neighboring Port of Long Beach, the volume of empty containers in May was up 80.7% year-over-year to 327,135 TEUs.

The Port of LA also handled the most imports ever in a single month in May. Loaded imports, up 75% year-over-year, totaled 535,714 TEUs, surpassing the August 2020 record of 516,286 TEUs. May loaded exports, which have been running flat, were up 5.3% year-over-year to 109,886 TEUs.

“But our trade gap has widened now to 4.9-to-1. That’s the widest import-to-export gap that we have seen in our time,” Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a recorded statement.

Seroka said this week’s announcement comes on the heels of a celebration last week marking the handling of the record-setting 10 millionth container in a 12-month period. The port’s fiscal year ends June 30. 

For the first five months of the calendar year, overall cargo volume totaled 4,451,445 TEUs, an increase of 48.2% compared to the same period in 2020. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.