US container imports surpass 2019 levels Ship’s crew

The volume of US container imports fell slightly in June compared to May, but was well above pre-pandemic 2019 levels, according to Descartes Systems Group’s July Global Shipping Report.

Descartes data shows that container import volume in June was 2,081,793 TEU, down 0.7% from May 2023. While it decreased by 16.1% compared to June 2022, last month’s import volume was 6% higher than June 2019.

The July report shows a slightly stronger trend in import volumes in June compared to previous years, as there are signs that key challenges to global supply chain performance, such as US West Coast industrial relations and port transit time delays, are easing , continue to improve. Unlike the first four months of 2023, import volume growth accelerated last month by 2.1% compared to 2019 volumes over the same period.

Photo credit: Descartes

Meanwhile, Chinese imports rose slightly by 0.3% to 783,019 TEU compared to May, but were still 22.0% below last August’s peak.

“Although import volumes of US containers dropped in June, they didn’t drop as much as they have in the past,” said Chris Jones, Descartes executive VP of industry. “Port transit delays have fallen to the lowest level since Descartes began tracking them, and the volume share in West Coast ports exceeded that in East Coast ports for the first time since March 2022.”

Descartes’ latest report comes at a time when the National Retail Federation is forecasting US container imports to peak in August before slowly easing at least through September.

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