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Port of Long Beach reports 30% plunge in Q1 container volumes

The Southern Californian gateway port of Long Beach saw a 30% drop in container volumes in the first quarter of the year.

The Port of Long Beach handled 1.72m teu in the first quarter of 2023 down some 30% on the same three-month period in 2022. The sharp drop in volumes reflects a normalisation of the container trades, high inventory stocks built up by US importers last year, lower US consumer spending, and as a result a drop in exports from China.

In March 2023 the port handled 603,878 teu down 30% on a record March volume in 2022.

Imports decreased 34.7% to 279,148 teu while exports increased 16.9% to 133,512 teu. Empty container movements through the port saw the sharpest drop declining 40.5% to 191,218 teu.

“Warehouses remain full and fewer cargo containers are crossing the docks because consumer spending remains slow,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “We are ready for a rebound in retail as we work with our industry partners to recapture market share.”

There are some positive signs with economists saying financial markets are starting to stabalise. Spot container freight rates are seen as having bottomed out following a plunge of more than 80% over the last 18 months, and HSBC Global Research has pointed to a potential recovery reflecting improved demand.

“We continue to invest in our infrastructure projects and look for ways to efficiently and sustainably move cargo so our customers new and old are reminded why we are the Port of Choice,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman. “We will be ready when cargo volumes are on the rise again.”