Slowed by industry headwinds and challenges that included major customer Hanjin declaring bankruptcy, the Port of Long Beach said it moved almost 6.8 million containers in 2016, its fifth best year ever.
Overall cargo declined 5.8 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, as the Port was impacted by new ocean carrier alliances and the August bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, a South Korean company and former majority stakeholder at the 381-acre Pier T container terminal — Long Beach’s largest.
By year’s end, the Harbor Commission had approved an agreement for a subsidiary of Mediterranean Shipping Co., one of the world’s largest container ship operators, to take sole control of the long-term lease at Pier T.
“As the new year starts, we’re grateful to be able to put the Hanjin bankruptcy behind us,” said Port of Long Beach Interim Chief Executive Duane Kenagy. “At the same time, MSC’s quick interest in Pier T once it became available shows the facility’s value to the industry. We’re looking forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with MSC and the 2M Alliance.”
“Last year was turbulent, with numerous ocean carrier mergers and other changes,” said Harbor Commission President Lori Ann Guzmán. “Now we have one of the largest ocean carriers in the world as a major partner and we’re well positioned to rebound in 2017. While the industry strives for equilibrium, Long Beach will continue be a reliable port of entry and continue to provide the fastest, most efficient services for trade from the Far East.”
Cargo was 8 percent lower in December compared to the same month in 2015. Imports decreased 8.2 percent to 271,599 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. Exports fell 2.5 percent to 122,933 TEUs, while empties declined 11.4 percent to 154,397 TEUs.
A total of 6,775,171 TEUs moved through docks in 2016. Imports totaled 3,442,575 TEUs, down 5 percent, and exports were up 0.3 percent to 1,529,497. Empty containers were down 11.7 percent to 1,803,098.
The year started on a high note in Long Beach, with shipments rising in early 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Later in 2016, shifting service routes under the new alliances and the Hanjin bankruptcy contributed to a slide in cargo figures.
The Port of Long Beach is one of the world’s premier seaports, a gateway for trans-Pacific trade and a trailblazer in goods movement and environmental stewardship. With 175 shipping lines connecting Long Beach to 217 seaports, the Port handles $180 billion in trade annually, supporting hundreds of thousands of Southern California jobs.