Last year was the Port of Los Angeles’ busiest year on record, with 10.7 million 20-foot equivalent units moved, Executive Director Gene Seroka said Thursday during the annual State of the Port.

“In 2021, we learned how much cargo we could move through our port under extraordinary circumstances,” Seroka said in a pre-taped address Thursday. The port experienced record imports due to surging consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10.7 million containers processed in 2021 was about 13% higher than the previous record, set in 2018, Seroka said.

“But that’s not the whole picture, because during our fiscal year, which ended this past June 30, we processed even more cargo, more than 10.8 million container units from July of 2020 to June of 2021, and another 5 million from July until the end of the year,” Seroka said.

The port experienced 18 consecutive months of record cargo volume, he added.

While imports surged, the port was faced with the challenge of ships waiting off anchor to enter the port complex.

“This surge of imports has especially underscored our need to be able to flex and scale the use of our properties. In times like this, it means having more swing space to ease terminal congestion,” Seroka said.

To mitigate the backlog, the port announced on Oct. 25 a fee for companies whose import containers linger at marine terminals

“Merely announcing the fee reduced the number of those idling containers by more than 60%. The results have been phenomenal and I’m happy to say we have not implemented the fee,” Seroka said.

The port is considering a similar fee for idling empty containers.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the port and its surrounding communities, noted the impact the port has on residents in the area, particularly in the Wilmington neighborhood. Buscaino called for the port and the city to “do everything possible to continue mitigating their adverse effects on neighboring communities.”

He highlighted the high pollution and truck traffic in the residential Wilmington area and said “we must continue to develop solutions that improve the local community’s quality of life by creating jobs, aggressively improving supply chain efficiency and ensuring that harbor neighborhoods are protected from the physical and environmental impacts of goods movement.”

The port is testing out 107 zero-emission and 27 near-zero emission units to be used for cargo handling, drayage, harbor craft and ocean-going vessel operations. The port said it plans to grow the fleet to more than 200 units over the next 18 months. In April, the port will implement the Clean Truck Fund Rate, which officials expect will raise $130 million over the next three years to fund zero-emission trucks and fueling infrastructure development.

Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke in a pre-taped video shown during the event about the state’s investment into the Port of Los Angeles, which will be used for freight system improvements and digital and cybersecurity infrastructure.

“Ports, you know, are not just about imports, they’re also about being on the leading and cutting edge of workforce development and environmental stewardship. And that’s why I’m really proud this year we’re building on some of that trailblazing work by investing an additional $2.3 billion state investment alone in our ports and supply chain that get goods more efficiently to where they need to go,” Newsom said.

The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in North America by cargo volume and cargo value.

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