Container Volumes Down Year-Over-Year in June

Some Signs Point to Improvement at Ports
Port of Los Angeles
Workers moved 833,030 containers at the Port of Los Angeles in June, making it the facility’s strongest performance since last July. (Port of Los Angeles)

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Container volume was lower in June when measured against strong year-ago levels at ocean cargo facilities on the West and East Coasts, but some signs of improvement can be seen.

Activity at some of the nation’s ports showed a month-to-month increase now that retailers are preparing for the fall and holiday sales events.

At the Port of Los Angeles, workers moved 833,030 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in June, making this the port’s strongest performance since last July, and just 5% less than last year’s record.

“Cargo volume has increased a remarkable 70% since February, with four months of consecutive gains,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said during a media briefing. “I’m optimistic that the second half of 2023 will show improved performance compared to the first six months.”

During the first six months, the port processed 4,137,379 TEUs, a 24% decline compared with the same period in 2022.

Port officials say a key factor that will help improve business is the multiyear tentative agreement between management’s Pacific Maritime Association and the 22,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which handles cargo at Los Angeles, the adjacent Port of Long Beach, and 27 other West Coast facilities.

The agreement is now being voted on by union members.

The Port of Long Beach reported that its dockworkers and terminal operators moved 597,076 TEUs in June, a 28.5% decline from June 2022, which was the port’s busiest June on record.

“We are hopeful to obtain a greater percentile of market share,” Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero said. “We remain confident that our reliability, efficiency and unparalleled service will attract additional trade and economic activity to our port.” The facility moved 3,732,676 TEUs during the first half of the year, down 25.5% from the 2022 period.

The Port of Oakland reported a 27.9% year-over-year decline in container volume, processing 155,827 containers in June.

The Port of Oakland board on July 17 approved spending $245 million over five years to improve the port’s electric infrastructure and support zero-emission operation goals, including funding for Seaport Air Quality 2020 and Beyond Plan projects.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao


During Major League Baseball’s recent All-Star break, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao met with MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred to explain her city’s proposal for a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics at the Port of Oakland.

The multibillion-dollar real estate development and ballpark plan has stalled, and the team has been looking for new locations. It’s likely the club will leave for Las Vegas when the team’s lease expires at Oakland Coliseum, which opened in the late 1960s.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates the ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., did not have TEU figures available at press time.



Port Houston reported a 2% year-over-year decline in container volume in June, processing 315,983 containers.

“It’s not surprising that import volumes are slightly under last year’s unprecedented pace,” Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said. “But container activity through Houston remains strong overall. To put it into perspective, import TEUs at Port Houston are up 30% compared to 2019, before the pandemic.”

Port of Savannah, Ga., did not have numbers available at press time.

Port of Virginia reported a less-than-1% year-over-year decline as it processed 265,875 containers in June.

South Carolina Ports Authority, which operates the Port of Charleston, said it finished its fiscal 2023 with steady container volumes and stronger-than-expected activity at its rail-served inland ports.

The port said that in fiscal 2023, it handled nearly 2.6 million TEUs. While this is down about 10% from fiscal 2022 — when pandemic spending spurred an unprecedented cargo boom — volumes are up 1% from fiscal 2021, a much more typical year.

In June, SC Ports handled 203,091 TEUs, a 3.4% year-over-year increase. Retail, advanced manufacturing, automotive and cold storage sectors continue to drive growth at the Port of Charleston.

Barbara Melvin


“SC Ports provides reliable, efficient service for companies’ supply chains,” CEO Barbara Melvin said. “Port-dependent businesses will continue to invest in South Carolina to gain access to a well-run port with capacity in the booming Southeast market.”

Meanwhile, unionized dockworkers at SC Ports protested July 12 as a case goes to an appeals court after the National Labor Relations Board decision upheld the right that unionized dockworkers should exclusively staff the cranes at Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal in Charleston under a 2012 master contract. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and the state ports authority have argued that a solely unionized workforce would burden the terminal by increasing operational costs.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey typically operates a month behind in tabulating its container volume. Officials said that, in May, levels dropped 25% to 676,311 TEUs compared with the same month a year ago.

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