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Ports got a tonic in December to cap an anemic 2009

Exports allow L.A. to post a slight gain in traffic from a year earlier while booming imports drive increased activity at Long Beach.

January 15, 2010|By Ronald D. White
  • Container traffic at the Port of Long Beach increased 8.7% overall in December, spurred by a 13.4% gain in imports.
Container traffic at the Port of Long Beach increased 8.7% overall in December,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The nation's two busiest cargo container ports -- Los Angeles and Long Beach -- ended a terrible year in international trade with strong December numbers that might signal the beginning of a long-awaited economic rebound.

The Port of Los Angeles, which ranks first in the U.S., handled 562,990 cargo containers last month, a tiny increase of 0.35% over the 561,033 recorded in the same month a year earlier. The increase was driven by a huge 40.2% increase in exports, which climbed to 153,836 containers from 109,704 a year earlier.

The Port of Long Beach moved 467,237 containers in December, up 8.7% from the 429,946 handled a year earlier. Imports were the driver there, registering a 13.4% gain to 232,586 containers compared with 205,031 a year earlier.

The encouraging numbers came after a year in which even veteran longshore workers were finding it difficult to get more than two or three days of work a week.

Leaders from both ports chose to focus on the possibilities for a rebound in 2010.

The surge in exports "was a nice way to put a tough year behind us," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, adding, "We are cautiously optimistic about 2010."

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard D. Steinke called the December numbers "great news for our region and the nation," adding that he hoped it marked "the beginning of an ongoing, upward trend."

For the year, the Port of Los Angeles handled 6.75 million containers, the fewest since 2002 and a decline of 14% from the 7.85 million handled in 2008.

Long Beach ended the year with 5.1 million containers, its lowest total since 2003 and a 22% decline from the 6.5 million it handled in 2008.

ron.white@latimes.com

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