The Port of Long Beach sailed past the previous April cargo-handling record by more than 118,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

“An ongoing cargo boom largely driven by online purchases lifted the Port of Long Beach to its strongest April on record,” this week’s press release said. 

The port moved 746,188 TEUs in April, a 43.6% increase from the same month last year, when West Coast port volumes dramatically declined at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time the Port of Long Beach handled more than 700,000 TEUs in the month of April, surpassing the previous record set in April 2019 by 118,066 TEUs. 

April imports were up 44.8% year-over-year to 367,151 TEUs and exports increased 21% to 124,069 TEUs. 

The biggest gain came in the number of empty containers moved, up 55.8% year-over-year to 254,970 TEUs. The Port of Long Beach did not break out empty boxes by import and export, but a look at statistics on its website showed outbound empties were up 66.8% year-over-year, from 145,931 TEUs to 243,392 TEUs, while inbound empties were down 34.8%, from 17,758 TEUs in April 2020 to 11,577 TEUs this year. The export of empty boxes has been an issue at ports aross the country to meet demand to quickly get them back to Asia for refilling. 

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, indicated in a statement that he does not export the import surge to subside anytime soon. 

“We remain optimistic as online spending continues to soar, retailers prepare for a busy summer season and businesses continue to reopen following months of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cordero said. 

The port said April marked the 10th consecutive month that it broke container-handling records and that it had prepared for a cargo surge over the last decade through a $4 billion capital improvement program that netted terminal upgrades, a new bridge and the completion this summer of the Long Beach Container Terminal at Middle Harbor, which it is hailing as “one of the most technologically advanced and greenest container terminals in the world.” 

Over the next 10 years, the nation’s second-busiest port plans to invest another $1.7 billion in such infrastructure projects as rail improvements and terminal modernization. 

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