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L.A.'s Harbor Remains Nation's Busiest in April

May 18, 2000|STEPHEN GREGORY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Port of Los Angeles appears secure in its recently reclaimed role as the nation's busiest port, beating its neighbor and former No. 1 titleholder Port of Long Beach in cargo container statistics for the fourth month in a row, port figures showed Wednesday.

In April, Los Angeles harbor moved roughly 40,000 more cargo containers than the Port of Long Beach, logging more than 400,000--the first time the facility has surpassed that mark in a single month.

Yet all but about 5,000 containers in L.A.'s cargo-handling edge over Long Beach constituted empty metal boxes shipped back across the Pacific as part of logistical repositioning for Asia's ever-surging import tidal wave, which is expected to peak over the next few months.

Imports at both ports during the first three months of the year--traditionally a slow season--jumped a combined average of 19% compared to the same period a year ago, causing concern that this year's peak season could overwhelm logistics and distribution infrastructure.

Some say this year's busy season--when back-to-school, Halloween and Christmas merchandise begins flooding the nation's ports--may have started in April. With a host of relatively new shipping services, Los Angeles harbor took in excess of 10,000 more imports last month than Long Beach to hit a total of 211,262, a 44% increase over a year earlier.

Long Beach, moved more than 91,000 export containers compared to L.A.'s 85,000. Hal Hilliard, marketing manager at Long Beach harbor, said growing markets in Asia for U.S. agricultural products and raw materials helped fuel the port's 18% year-over-year increase in export cargo.

Until January, Long Beach had been the nation's undisputed top port for nearly five years.

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