Loaded imports were mostly flat and loaded exports decreased, but empty containers grew by double-digit percentages at both ports last month.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach both reported on Thursday that they had the busiest Aprils in their ports’ histories despite loaded imports being mostly flat and loaded exports decreasing.
The Port of Los Angeles handled 736,466 TEUs last month, which was 4.4% growth over 2018 and 3% more than the previous April record from 2017. The Port of Long Beach broke a 13-year-old April record by moving 628,121 TEUs, which was up 1.6% over 2018.
Long Beach’s loaded imports grew by 1.8% year-over-year to 317,883 TEUs, while Los Angeles’ fell by a slight 0.1% to 360,745 TEUs.
Both ports experienced decreases in loaded exports and surges in empty containers.
Los Angeles’ loaded exports declined by 5.6% to 155,533 TEUs and empty containers increased 22.5% to 220,189 TEUs. At the Port of Long Beach, loaded exports dropped 12.7% to 123,804 TEUs and empty containers climbed 13.5% to 186,435 TEUs.
Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said the growth in empty containers is a result of the lingering impacts of the rush of imported cargo in the fourth quarter of 2018.
“Ocean carriers have been busy repositioning containers back to Asia after sending so many to North America late last year,” Cordero said in a statement. “With peak season approaching, we’re expecting imports to continue to grow, but it’s clear exports are suffering under the weight of tariffs.”
The Global Port Tracker released Thursday forecasts the retail imports at America’s major retail ports will “see unusually high levels” through the summer.