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Descartes’ Global Shipping Report shows solid U.S-bound import growth, from March to April

United States-bound container import volumes saw decent traction, from March to April, according to the recently-issued April Global Shipping Report from Waterloo, Ontario-based Descartes, a provider of logistics based on-demand, software-as-a-service offerings.  

This is the 21st edition of the Global Shipping Report, going back to its debut in August 2021.

Descartes said that U.S. container import volumes saw a 9.0% increase, to 2,020,197 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), from March to April, which topped a 6.9% increase, from February to March. The firm explained that U.S. container import volumes were paced by what it said was a surge in imports from China. Those imports alone posted a 26.7% increase over March.

On an annual basis, April was down 17.8% while increasing 5.3% compared to pre-pandemic April 2019, with Descartes noting that April continues to track 2019 volumes through the first four months of 2023, with a 1.5% difference for the same period in each year.

Looking at the top 10 U.S.-based ports, the report found that April U.S. container port volume rose a collective 10.9%—in terms of sequential TEU difference—from March to April, to 167,174 TEU. The Port of New York-New Jersey led the way, at 54,466 TEU (up 19.3%), with the Port of Savanah next, at 24,923 TEU (up 14.6%), and the Port of Los Angeles rounding out the top three, at 22,514 (up 7.0%).

While imports from China were up 26.7% in April, they remain 26.0% below the high set in August 2022. And imports from China accounted for 36.8% of total U.S. container imports in April, up 5.2% over March, but 4.7% below the February 2022 high.

Following China, for U.S. bound container imports, was Vietnam, with a 13.8% increase (156,563 TEU) and Taiwan, with a 19.3% increase (9,461 TEU).

The report’s author, Chris Jones, EVP Industry at Descartes, wrote that April volume share for the top West Coast, East Coast, and Gulf Coast ports all saw gains.

“Comparing the top five West Coast ports to the top five East and Gulf Coast ports in April 2023 versus March 2023 shows that, of the total import container volume, top West Coast ports increased to 40.3 and top East and Gulf Coast ports increased slightly to 44.0,” wrote Jones. “Led by growth at the top West Coast ports, the top 10 ports gained share in April 2023 compared to smaller ports, as the top 10 represented 84.3% of all volume compared with 82.8% in January 2023.”

Descartes also highlighted how April port transit delays were better compared to March, with times at their lowest level since the report’s inception in 2021. Descartes defines port delays as the difference measured in days between the Estimated Arrival Date, which is initially declared on the bill of lading, and the date when Descartes receives the CBP-processed bill of lading.

Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach monthly average transit delays (in days), came in at 5.0 and 4.6, respectively, for April, with Oakland, Tacoma and Seattle 5.3, 5.7, and 7.1.

Descartes’ Jones wrote that progress is being made on the West Coast port labor negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, noting that despite the contract between the parties having expired in July 2022, things have been “business as usual with the union and there has been no impact on container processing as has been the case in the past,” adding that “the final resolution of the agreement could bring Asia-originating containers that had shifted Gulf and East Coast ports back to major California ports to take advantage of the reduced transit times.”  

Article Topics

Global Trade
Ocean Freight
Ocean Freight
Ocean Shipping
   All topics

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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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