Essential workers at the Port of Long Beach moved more than 8.1 million cargo container units in 2020, setting a record in the face of economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing trade war with China.

The port ended 2020, its busiest year on record, with 8,113,315 20-foot equivalent units moved, an increase of 6.3% from 2019. Imports rose 6.4% to 3,998,340 TEUs. Exports totaled 1,475,888 TEUs, up 0.2%, while empty containers increased 9.9% to 2,639,088 TEUs. The port exceeded the previous annual record set in 2018 by 22,292 TEUs.

“I want to thank our frontline workers on the docks who kept cargo moving during this unprecedented moment in history, ensuring the safe, secure and timely delivery of vital medical equipment and consumer goods,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. “We have all endured incredible hardships with COVID-19, but I am looking forward to 2021 as a time of economic recovery and a renewed focus on our industry partners, infrastructure projects and community stakeholders.”

The COVID-19 pandemic drove down consumer demand for goods during the first half of 2020, leading to a 6.9% decline in cargo compared to the same period a year earlier. The San Pedro Bay ports complex — Long Beach and L.A. combined — had 104 canceled sailings in the first half of 2020, 37 of which were destined for Long Beach. That was up from 41 canceled sailings for both ports in the first half of 2019.

It was a different story for the second half of 2020, when preliminary estimates show that the port had 104 unscheduled container ship calls that made up for voyages canceled earlier in the year, more than quadrupling the unscheduled sailings reported during the same period in 2019.

“This record demonstrates the effort of our dockworkers and the port’s determination to collaborate with our partners to overcome the devastating economic challenges presented by COVID-19 and the trade war with China,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Frank Colonna. “We look forward to continuing to work toward economic recovery along with our stakeholders.”

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