Long Beach Port Catching Up to L.A. in Cargo Traffic

By DAVID GREENBERG
Staff Reporter

A substantial shift in traffic is cutting into the Port of Los Angeles' lead on its rival in Long Beach.

For the first six months of the year, container traffic at Long Beach increased by 16.2 percent to 2.5 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units), while L.A.'s port saw a 5 percent increase, to 3.6 million TEUs, during the like period.

In June, Long Beach moved a record 494,098 TEUs, an increase of 27.8 percent from a year earlier. It was the second month in a row that the port set an all-time volume record; normally port cargo records are set during the August-through-October peak season.

L.A.'s 612,080 TEUs in June represented an 8.6 percent jump over the year-earlier period.

"We've grown faster than L.A.," said Don Snyder, marketing manager for the Long Beach port. "What we're seeing right now, in addition to general trade growth, is incremental facility capacity available for people."

CMA CGM Inc., the French-based steamship line, moved from L.A. to Long Beach last month. The line, which currently docks a 4,000 TEU ship at Long Beach, will double that capacity by docking a weekly 8,000 TEU ship beginning in late summer or early fall. That increase is the result of a joint alliance with Mediterranean Shipping Co. that will operate a combined five 8,000 TEU ships.

The ability to accommodate these next-generation vessels gives Long Beach an edge over other West Coast ports because nearly all its terminals have channel waters deep enough to handle them. Orient Overseas Container Line docked the first 8,000 TEU ship in Long Beach last summer.

China Shipping Container Lines is scheduled to bring in its first next-generation vessel later this month with China Ocean Shipping Co. to follow suit next month.

West Coast ports have also benefited from increased trade with ports off China's Bohai Sea, mostly notably in Shanghai and Ningbo.

To take advantage of this, Long Beach terminals have arranged for express service using 4,000 TEU ships directly from China. So far, Hyundai Merchant Marine, China Ocean Shipping Co. and Hanjin Shipping Co. have or will offer the service soon.

After the loss of A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S's Maersk Sealand line in 2002, Long Beach has adjusted and container traffic has been climbing again to fill its terminal space.

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