July Cargo Volumes Decline at Most Ports

Port of Los Angeles Off 25.8% Year-Over-Year
Houston Ship Channel
Houston Ship Channel will be 700 feet wide and about 46.5 feet deep after an expansion project is completed next year. (Port Houston)

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Cargo freight volumes in July remain depressed and well below 2022’s record levels, especially at West Coast ports.

The Port of Los Angeles, which is vying with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to be the nation’s busiest facility, saw a 25.8% year-over-year decline, processing 684,290 20-foot-equivalent containers. Last July, the port processed 935,423 TEUs.

“Global trade has eased as warehouse inventories of retailers and manufacturers remain elevated,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “American consumers are continuing to spend and are likely to find more discounted items this year as we move into fall fashion and year-end holiday season.”

This year the twin complexes at Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., have seen volumes drop dramatically also because of the slow pace of contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association. Those negotiations resulted in a tentative agreement that is now undergoing a ratification vote.

The adjacent Port of Long Beach reported a 26.4% decline in volume, processing 578,249 containers in July compared with 785,843 a year ago.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka (left) and Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka (left) and Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero

“I am confident we will see our numbers improve as we work with industry partners to rebuild our market share,” Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero said. “Looking ahead in the near term , however, we anticipate a modest ‘peak season’ for shipping as consumers spend a little less this year on back-to-school supplies and gifts through the holiday season.”

The Port of Oakland’s container volume in July climbed to its highest level since October 2022.

In July, the port handled 136,181 TEUs, a 16.8% gain compared with 116,629 a year earlier.

Oakland port officials said vessel calls are increasing and the amount of time a ship spends at a berth has decreased, suggesting that cargo is flowing.

“We are encouraged to see container volumes gradually rebounding,” Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes said. “The port is making great investments at the Oakland Seaport to foster growth, which ultimately benefits the local economy and helps power local jobs.”

Bryan Brandes


Meanwhile, it appears the plan to bring Major League Baseball to the Port of Oakland with a new stadium is all but dead, and the Oakland Athletics eventually will relocate. The team has hired a general contractor to build a ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip, and Oakland’s lead negotiator for the Howard Terminal project has resigned.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., reported a 9.9% decline in volume, moving 234,875 containers in July compared with 260,572 in 2022.

Along the Gulf of Mexico, Port Houston notched a 4.9% year-over-year increase in volume in July, moving 344,163 TEUs compared with 328,498.

The port recently took delivery of three new ship-to-shore cranes to be used to load and unload vessels capable of carrying 15,000 TEUs, which the port expects to see more of as Houston Ship Channel is expanded by 170 feet to a width of 700 feet by next year and deepened to 46.5 feet. That would allow two-way traffic, and the largest ocean vessels can call on the port with greater efficiency.

The Port of Savannah, Ga., had its strongest month of year in July, processing 447,587 TEUs. However that’s still down 15.7% compared with the same month a year ago, when it experienced its busiest month on record (530,800 containers). The Savannah facility is in the midst of an extensive expansion to where port officials say it will be capable of handling 10 million containers a year by 2026, putting it on the same level as Los Angeles, Long Beach and the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey.

Ed McCarthy


“The expanded berth and four of the largest ship-to-shore cranes in North America came on line last month, providing faster vessel service and an increase of 1.5 million TEUs in annual berth capacity,” Georgia Ports Authority Chief Operating Officer Ed McCarthy said. “The Port of Savannah can now serve five big ships simultaneously, and has eliminated its vessel backlog.”

The South Carolina Port Authority said Charleston and other facilities processed 3.7% fewer containers in July —208,134 TEUs compared with 216,097 a year ago.

“Although overall volumes continue to reflect the tempered U.S. economy, the Southeast is booming, and the U.S. East Coast port market continues to attract new cargo,” SC Ports CEO Barbara Melvin said.

The Port of Virginia reported a nearly 6% decline to 298,202 from 317,691 a year ago.

The Port Authority of New York-New Jersey typically runs one month behind other ports when it comes to reporting its container volumes. In June, the port reported a 27.4% decline, processing 624,440 TEUs compared with 859,953 a year ago.

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