Port of Long Beach, California-Water Gateway

Port of Long Beach, California-Water Gateway

The maritime Port of Long Beach (POLB) is the nation’s third busiest waterborne freight gateway for international merchandise trade by value of shipments. It is our fifth busiest gateway by value when compared with all U.S. freight gateways—land, air, and sea.

In 2003, merchandise trade passing through the Port of Long Beach ($96 billion) accounted for 12 percent of the value of total U.S. international waterborne trade. These freight shipments accounted for more than 9 percent of all U.S. waterborne exports and 13 percent of imports. POLB is a major gateway for imports with inbound shipments accounting for 82 percent of the value of freight it handled in 2003.

By weight, the facility ranks sixth among all water gateways, handling 51 million tons or 4 percent of total U.S. international waterborne freight tonnage. Although Long Beach is a significant gateway for both imports and exports, inbound freight shipments account for 72 percent of the tonnage handled by the port in 2003. Between 1999 and 2003, the tonnage of cargo handled at Long Beach increased 26 percent, due mostly to growth in imports from 27 million to 37 million tons (or 37 percent). Exports rose slightly from 13 million to 14 million tons.

Long Beach is primarily a container port although it handles noncontainerized bulk cargo. In 2003, the port handled about 3.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) carrying international imports and exports. This accounted for 18 percent of U.S. containerized TEUs handled at all our nation’s seaports. About 78 percent of the POLB’s containerized cargo was inbound.

Nearly 2,800 vessels called at Port of Long Beach in 2003. Container vessels were the most frequent type to call at the port, accounting for 48 percent.1 About 27 percent of the calls were by tanker ships.

China was the port’s leading origin country for imports by weight of shipments, followed by Mexico, and Hong Kong in 2003.2 China was the leading destination for exports leaving Long Beach, followed by South Korea, and Japan. The leading foreign seaports for cargo leaving or arriving at Long Beach were Port of Hong Kong, China’s Yantian, and South Korea’s Port of Pusan.

In 2003, the top containerized imports were machinery, electric equipment, motor vehicles, clothing, and toys while the top exports were machinery, plastics, electric equipment, meat, and chemicals.3

1 In July 2004, Orient Overseas Container Line’s OOCL Ningbo—an 8,000-TEU vessel and one of the world’s two largest containerships—docked at the Port of Long Beach.

2 For official merchandise trade statistics, the Census Bureau reports Hong Kong separately. In this report, China refers to mainland China.

3 The Port of Long Beach website, http://www.polb.com/html/1_about/overview.html.