On October 15th and 16th I took a trip down to Southern California to visit the Port of Los Angeles.  I’ve purchased abandoned cargo from this port dozens of times over the years, and have also arranged containers of merchandise to be shipped from this West Coast shipping hub. The port occupies a large chunk of land, and business flows daily.  One might ask if we really are in a recession when commerce is observed from this location.

The United States has a long of history of importing goods, and her shores are dotted with bustling ports that handle the ever increasing arrival of merchandise from overseas. Those residents of those waterfront cities have grown accustomed to the regular arrival of ships, all loaded down with layer upon layer of huge containers, but even those folks would be stunned at the sheer enormity of ocean traffic that hits the Port of Los Angeles on a daily basis.

To get an idea of the sheer scale of the port, you need only take a look at the numbers, some of which are big enough to make the average mathematician a little giddy. In order to ease the average person into those figures, let’s start from the smallest figure in the statistics and work our way up. Now may be a good time to grab a calculator, just in case you’d like to play along.

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  • 43 miles of waterfront make up the main harbor area.
  • 270 equals the number of available berths for incoming ships.
  • 2,182 vessels arrived in the Port of Los Angeles in 2010, with all manner of merchandise packed on board, some of which we will get to in a moment.
  • 3,200 acres is the size of the harbor, which may seem large, but it actually pales in comparison to the size of the entire complex.
  • 7,500 acres is the area that makes up that complex, and when you consider that a football field comprises 1 acre, then you might just get an idea of the sheer size of the port; I don’t even Joe Montana could chuck it that far.
  • 16,000 people are employed in the port, including lifeguards, cops and anti-terrorism units.
  • 7.8 million twenty-foot equivalent units (the standard unit of cargo carrying capacity) arrived in L.A. during 2010.
  • 157.8 million metric revenue tons was the annual cargo tonnage last year.
  • $406.8 million was the annual revenue for the port in 2010, which was just a couple of bucks shy of Oprah Winfrey’s take for the year.
  • 731,592 million passengers passed through the port last year, although none of them were in the cargo containers, as far as we know.
  • $236.4 billion was the total value of the cargo that made its way into the Port of Los Angeles during the last calendar year.

As surprising as some of those numbers are, what may be more shocking is what the most popular imports were. It turns out that furniture, shoes, toys, car parts; and women’s and kid’s clothing were at the top of the list, with the majority of the imports coming from the Asian market. What also makes those figures so staggering, is that we were slap bang in the middles of a recession during 2010, so you can only imagine how high they would go if we all had a little more money to spend. Of course, maybe I’m missing the point, and perhaps all those imports were for Oprah’s favorite things segment; I guess we’ll never know.

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