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March 14, 2018 2:15 PM, EDT

SoCal Ports Set February Volume Records in Another Sign of Humming Economy

L.A.'s TEU Uptick Was 16% While Long Beach Moved 32.8% More
Port of Los Angeles containers Cargo containers stacked at the Port of Los Angeles. (intherough/Flickr)

In another sign that the U.S. economy is doing well, officials at the Port of Los Angeles and the nearby Port of Long Beach, Calif., said February was a record month for shipping goods in and out of the biggest ports in the United States.

The Port of Los Angeles, the No. 1 port, reported that it processed 725,059 20-foot equivalent units, or TEU, making it the busiest February in the port’s 111-year history. Total volume was up 16% for the month compared with February 2017.

“With this strong start to 2018, I’m equally grateful to all of our supply chain partners who have helped us in our ongoing quest to optimize efficiency through world-class infrastructure, innovative technology solutions and extraordinary customer service,” Port of L.A. Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

February’s imports increased 28.1% to 383,089 TEUs compared to the previous year. Exports increased 1.4% to 157,591 TEUs while empty containers increased 7.8% to 184,378 TEUs.

February was a great month, and it’s been a record-setting first two months because the January numbers were records as well.

Phillip Sanfield, Port of L.A. spokesman

The Port of Long Beach also logged February as a record month, processing 661,790 TEUs, a 32.8% increase compared with February 2017. “It’s the first time Long Beach terminals have handled more than 600,000 cargo containers in the month,” according to a statement from the port.

Imports climbed 37% last month to 342,247 TEUs while outbound containers were 130,916, up 9.3%.

Officials with both ports said in addition to the economic news, the surge in volume is also due to the date of the Lunar New Year, which was nearly three weeks later than 2017’s holiday.

The Chinese New Year, which ran Feb. 16 through March 2, gave shippers from Asia additional time to process and ship products to the United States.

“A month like this is the new normal,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said. “We expect a lull in March as East Asian nations celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday and then a rebound in April. We’re very happy with our busy start to 2018.”

“February was a great month, and it’s been a record-setting first two months because the January numbers were records as well,” said Phillip Sanfield, spokesman for the Port of L.A.

While leaders of both ports are optimistic about the rest of the year there are concerns going forward about the recent announcement that President Donald Trump is imposing a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum. Exemptions to the tariffs have been granted to Canada and Mexico, which together account for 25% of the imported steel into the United States.

“The looming steel and aluminum tariffs give us some pause. We do import some steel from Brazil and China,” Sanfield said. “There is concern about a possible trade war.”

The Trump administration reportedly is considering tariffs to as much as $60 billion on Chinese imports, specifically targeting the technology and telecommunications sectors.