The nation’s ports continued to post strong results this week, driven by imports as companies restock inventories and prepare for the peak holiday shopping season.

Officials at the Port of Los Angeles processed 883,625 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in September, up more than 13% compared to the year-ago period and marking the busiest September in the Port’s history, officials said Wednesday. September’s loaded imports increased more than 17% compared to a year ago, while loaded exports fell less than 1%. Year-to-date, cargo decreased nearly 9% compared to last year.

“Despite unresolved questions about our nation’s health, economy, and export strength, imports have improved significantly after a difficult spring,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement announcing the monthly results. “I commend our longshore labor force, Los Angeles marine terminal operators, truckers, and supply chain stakeholders who continue to rise to the challenge throughout this pandemic.”

On the East Coast, officials at the Port of Virginia said the port set a new record volume for September and marked its fourth straight month of growth this year. The port moved 256,439 TEUs, up 4% compared to August. The growth was driven by loaded exports and imports, which were 75,526 TEUs and 121,115 TEUs, respectively. In a year-on-year comparison, September’s volume topped last year’s mark by more than 15,000 TEUs, officials said.

“The rebound continues and we are seeing indicators that imports could remain strong into 2021 as inventory restocking continues and the retail season gets underway,” John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a statement announcing the results. “What is interesting is that September’s record volume was accompanied by the fewest number of vessel calls for the month. The ship owners are beginning to capitalize on their investments in big ships. They’re running fewer vessels, but carrying more cargo. Since 2015, the average number of containers per vessel calling Virginia has increased more than 71% to more than 1,200 boxes today versus 700-plus in 2015.”

Reinhart added that recent expansion projects at the port are designed to accommodate the growth. 

Officials at the Port of New York and New Jersey also emphasized a rebound in cargo activity this week, citing data for August, which is the most recent available. Container volumes rebounded sharply during the month, consistent with the elimination of most blank sailings, officials said. The Port returned to 2019 levels in August, setting a new all-time monthly container record, including a new record for intermodal rail volume.  At almost 65,000 lifts, the port-wide intermodal ExpressRail system handled 7.8% more volume than August 2019, with overall rail volume up 1.4% year-to-date through August 2020. 


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