China Surge helps boost US container imports in April Ship’s crew

Descartes’ latest Global Shipping report highlights an increase in US container import volume in April 2023, with a significant increase in imports from China as well as significantly reduced delays in all ports despite the increase in overall volume.

According to Descartes Systems Group’s May Global Shipping Report, import volumes of US containers continued to increase in April, mainly due to a surge in imports from China. Volumes in April have also kept pace with pre-pandemic volumes in 2019, but remain well below last year’s record numbers for the first half.

Imports from China reversed their downward trend and rose 26.7% on Descartes last month compared to March 2023.

“Container import volume from China, which had been declining since August 2022, recovered dramatically in April 2023 and accounted for 82% of the volume increase of the top 10 countries importing to the US,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry Descartes.

The report shows that US container import volume increased by 9.0% to 2,020,197 TEU in April 2023 compared to March 2023. Although the total TEU volume decreased by 17.8% compared to April 2022, the volume increased by 5.3% compared to April 2019 before the pandemic.

Descartes says that April’s strong container import volume growth in the first four months of 2023 continued to track 2019 volumes, with a 1.5% difference for the same period in each year. While labor negotiations on the West Coast appear to be moving forward, a new deal has yet to be finalized.

“Despite the volume surge in April 2023, port transit delays were much less compared to March 2023, and overall port transit times are at their lowest since Descartes began tracking them in 2021,” Jones added.

Looking at the top ten ports, the total volume of US container imports increased by 167,174 TEU in April 2023 compared to March. The Port of New York and New Jersey recorded the highest overall increase in container volume with an additional 54,466 TEUs, followed by the Port of Savannah with an increase of 24,923 TEUs in March.

The latest update from Descartes comes as the National Retail Federation downgraded its forecast for container imports for the year amid a stronger-than-expected fall in imports in the first half, despite the recent rise in import freight volumes from February lows.

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