The maritime Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s busiest waterborne freight gateway for international merchandise trade by value of shipments. It’s also our top overall gateway by value when compared with all U.S. freight gateways—land, air, and sea.
In 2003, merchandise trade moving in and out of the Port of Los Angeles ($122 billion) accounted for 15 percent of the value of total U.S. international waterborne trade. These freight shipments accounted for more than 8 percent of all U.S. waterborne exports and 17 percent of waterborne imports.
Los Angeles is a major gateway for imports with inbound shipments accounting for 86 percent of the value of freight it handled in 2003—a ratio of export to imports of about 1 to 9 compared to the overall U.S. ratio of exports to imports of about 1 to 3.
By weight, the facility ranks ninth among all water gateways, handling 42 million tons or 3 percent of total U.S. international waterborne freight tonnage. Although Los Angeles is a significant gateway for both imports and exports, inbound freight shipments accounted for 70 percent of tonnage handled by the port in 2003. Between 1999 and 2003, the tonnage of cargo handled at Los Angeles increased 18 percent, due mostly to growth in imports, which grew by 23 percent from 24 million tons to 29 million tons. Exports hovered around 13 million tons.
Los Angeles is primarily a port for ships transporting containers—large, portable, reusable boxes that typically carry high-value cargo—which explains why this port ranks first by value and ninth by weight. In 2003, the port handled 3.9 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) carrying international imports and exports. This accounted for almost one out of every five (19 percent) of U.S. containerized TEUs handled at all our nation’s seaports. About 79 percent of the port’s containerized cargo was inbound.
Over 2,300 vessels called at the Port of Los Angeles in 2003. Container vessels were the most frequent type to call at the port, accounting for 70 percent. About 10 percent of the calls were by tanker ships.
China was the port’s leading origin country for imports by weight of shipments, followed by Taiwan, and Hong Kong in 2003.1 Japan was the leading destination for exports leaving Los Angeles, followed by China, and Taiwan. The leading seaport pairs for cargo leaving or arriving at Los Angeles were the Port of Hong Kong, Taiwan’s Port of Kao Hsiung, and China’s Yantian.
In 2003, the top containerized imports were furniture, apparel, electronic products, toys, and computer equipment while the top containerized exports were wastepaper, synthetic resins, fabric, animal feed, and scrap metal.2
1 For official merchandise trade statistics, the Census Bureau reports Hong Kong separately. In this report, China refers to mainland China.
2 The Port of Los Angeles website, http://www.portoflosangeles.org/about/facts.htm.