California ports are experiencing significant increases in volume in 2021, with some new records being set. The Port of Los Angles reported a 27 percent year-over-year increase in June, with 876,430 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) being processed. The month prior, a total of 1,012,048 TEUS were processed through the port. It marked the first time a Western Hemisphere port has passed the one million mark for TEUs in a month. Despite record movement through west coast ports, agricultural exporters are still struggling with shipping challenges. The increased volume at California ports has largely been caused by increased imports from China.
The Port of Oakland is also reporting significant increases in volume for 2021. Since the beginning of the year, the Port of Oakland has seen volume increase by more than 11 percent. Expectations are for the increased volume to continue. If the current pace remains constant through the rest of the year, the Port of Oakland would end 2021 having processed more than 2.6 million TEUs for the first time.
At the Port of Oakland, June imports increased 15 percent, while exports grew by less than one percent. The numbers reflect an ongoing trend of sending cargo containers back to China empty, to be filled with Chinese goods. The practice has created multiple delays and cancellations for agricultural exporters. Federal officials have been investigating the matter, but various reports indicate that the situation is not improving for ag exports.
The congestion at California ports had been improving in June. COVID-19 restrictions at the Port of Yantian in China helped ease some of the pressure on California ports. However, after congestion began to subside in June, conditions are trending back toward where they were over the last nine months. Ships awaiting a berth are continuing to get backed up outside of west coast ports. Expectations are for these congestion trends to continue in the months ahead.