By Mark Edward Nero
The Port of Long Beach says that its terminals moved nearly 6.8 million containers in 2016, making it the port’s fifth best year ever. However, the overall cargo numbers declined 5.8 percent last year compared to 2015, the data show.
The port attributes the decline to “industry headwinds” and challenges that included a major customer declaring bankruptcy.
Long Beach says it was negatively impacted by new ocean carrier alliances and the August, 2016 bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, a South Korean company and former majority stakeholder at the port’s 381-acre Pier T container terminal — Long Beach’s largest.
A total of 6,775,171 TEUs moved through the port’s docks in 2016. Imports totaled 3,442,575 TEUs, down five percent, but exports were up 0.3 percent to 1,529,497 units. Empty containers were down 11.7 percent to 1,803,098 TEUs.
By comparison, cargo volumes at the adjacent Port of Los Angeles reached 8.85 million TEUs in 2016, making it the busiest cargo year ever for a port in North America, according to POLA data.
In December, Long Beach cargo was eight percent lower compared to the same month in 2015. Imports decreased 8.2 percent to 271,599 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, last month, while exports fell 2.5 percent to 122,933 TEUs, and empties fell 11.4 percent to 154,397 TEUs.
Although the loss of Hanjin had an immediate negative effect, by year’s end the port’s harbor commission had approved an agreement for a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Co., one of the world’s largest container ship operators, to take sole control of the long-term lease at Pier T, helping set things back on track.
“As the new year starts, we’re grateful to be able to put the Hanjin bankruptcy behind us,” POLB Interim Chief Executive Duane Kenagy said. “At the same time, MSC’s quick interest in Pier T once it became available shows the facility’s value to the industry.”
Kenagy became interim CEO in September, following the sudden departure of then-CEO Jon Slangerup who left to become chairman and chief executive officer of a Canada-based aviation technology company.
“Last year was turbulent, with numerous ocean carrier mergers and other changes,” Harbor Commission President Lori Ann Guzmán said in a statement. “Now we have one of the largest ocean carriers in the world as a major partner and we’re well positioned to rebound in 2017. While the industry strives for equilibrium, Long Beach will continue be a reliable port of entry and continue to provide the fastest, most efficient services for trade from the Far East.”
Long Beach’s latest monthly cargo numbers and more detailed information are available at http://www.polb.com/economics/stats/latest_teus.asp and www.polb.com/stats