Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero began his annual State of the Port address Thursday by calling for port workers to immediately be given priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine after working through the port’s busiest months ever amid the deadly pandemic.

“The workforce is essential to keeping our economy moving, and they have put their health on the line,” Cordero said. “As ports, we cannot avail ourselves of the benefits of cargo volume without acknowledging the men and women who have continued to report to work, day in and day out, during the COVID crisis.”

The port remained open throughout the pandemic, despite longshore workers testing positive for the virus at high rates. In mid-January, the test positivity rate at the Port of Long Beach was 71%, according to U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Los Angeles, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

“During this unprecedented pandemic, the entire country depended on global trade as their lifeline,” Cordero said.

The port’s cargo volumes fell in the first half of the year, but container trade rebounded during the summer through imports of medical supplies and equipment. Additionally, the demands of “stay-at-home shoppers” surged imports in the second half of the year, Cordero said.

The port had four record-breaking months and the most active quarter in its 109-year history. The year ended with 8,113,315 20-foot equivalent units moved.

“After the slowdown in the spring of 2020, our container volumes rose nearly 10% in May and we broke record after record. Volumes jumped more than 20% in July, making it the busiest month in our 109-year history,” Cordero said.

“That record didn’t last long. We broke the record again with our September shipments, then broke the record for a third time with a 17% increase in total. Finally, the year concluded with a December that turned out to be the busiest month ever.”

During the tumultuous year, the port also completed “one of the biggest projects in the history of the port,” the replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge, which carries 15% of the U.S.’ inbound containers coming from overseas.

“Lit up at night, our new iconic bridge can be seen for miles and miles, a proud landmark that will always celebrate what was accomplished during a pandemic,” Cordero said.

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