The Port of Long Beach - the leading seaport in the United States - has reported a year-on-year container throughput increase of 25.2 per cent in August to 372,615 teu (20-foot equivalent units). In the same month, import shipments rose 22 per cent year-on-year to 195,413 teu, but fell short of July's record of 199,138 teu. However, the number of empty containers jumped to a record 99,766 teu in August, a 100.5 per cent rise year-on-year and slightly more than July's 98,626 teu. 'The Asian financial crisis seems to be lasting longer and to be deeper than we thought,' Don Wylie, the port's director of trade and maritime services, said of the continuing decline in exports. The record number of empties was a reflection of the growing trade imbalance, he said, adding that at least containers were moving and not stacking up at the port. Despite the high volume, cargo continued to move smoothly without the problems of railway congestion experienced last autumn. Mr Wylie said Union Pacific Railroad seemed to have solved its problems in southern California. Since last autumn, the port has improved its operations by increasing space for temporary storage of containers and deploying more cargo handling equipment. Also, terminals are offering more flexible truck-gate hours and the pool of part-time dock workers has grown by more than 2,000. The railway has also improved its operation by adding more crews, trains and cars. August was the port's second busiest month ever, after July's record of 378,714 teu. This is typical as back-to-school imports slow and Christmas imports do not peak until September and October.