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The Port of Long Beach did not set a cargo record in 2022. It said a breather in container movement allowed for a “return to normal operations while once again serving as the nation’s leading export seaport.”

But the 9,133,657 twenty-foot equivalent units moved in 2022 were only 2.7% off the record-setting 2021, the busiest year in the Southern California port’s 112-year history.

Imports dropped 4.9% to 4,358,789 TEUs, while exports dipped 1.6% to 1,414,882 TEUs. The port said despite the slight decline, Long Beach remained the nation’s leading export port for a second consecutive year for loaded TEUs. Empty containers processed through the port declined just 0.14% year over year to 3,359,986 TEUs.

“Cargo is moving smoothly as we move past the economic effects of COVID-19,” Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a news release. “In 2023, we will continue to invest in digital and physical infrastructure projects, focus on market share and develop long-term improvements that will strengthen our competitiveness and keep goods moving efficiently.”

The port said a continuing surge in e-commee spending and aggressive efforts to transfer long-dwelling cargo off the docks bolstered trade during the first half of 2022, with monthly cargo records set in January, February, March, April, June and July.

Consumer spending cooled by summer due to rising prices driven by inflation, and a shift in imported goods toward the Gulf and East coasts contributed to a softening of cargo volume during the second half of 2022, the port said.

It said that easing returned the port to “normal operations” by year’s end. 

Trade was down 27.9% in December compared with the same period in 2021, with 544,104 TEUs moved, the port said. Imports dropped 32.6% to 241,643 TEUs, while exports increased 1.6% to 115,782 TEUs. Empty containers were down 33.7% to 186,680 TEUs.

“Economists are forecasting a further decline in cargo volumes through 2023 as consumers shift their purchases to services over goods,” the port said. 

Cordero is expected to address that forecast during the State of the Port webcast at 12:25 p.m. PST Jan. 26.

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