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A containership at the Port of Long Beach

Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

China Surge Helps Push US Container Imports Up in April

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1373
May 9, 2023

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

U.S. container import volumes continued to gain in April due largely to a surge in imports from China, according to Descartes Systems Group’s Global Shipping Report for May. April volumes have also kept pace with pre-pandemic 2019 volumes, but remain well-below last year’s record setting numbers in the first half.

Imports from China reversed their downward trend and increased by 26.7% last month over March 2023. The May update shows continued consistency with pre-pandemic import volume seasonality and signs that a number of the challenges to global supply chain performance in 2023 are abating, according to Descartes.

“Container import volumes from China, which had been in decline since August 2022, rebounded dramatically in April 2023, representing 82% of the increase in volume from the top 10 countries importing into the U.S,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry Descartes.

The report shows that April 2023 U.S. container import volumes increased 9.0% from March 2023 to 2,020,197 TEUs. Although overall TEU volume was down 17.8% compared to April 2022, volumes were up 5.3% from pre-pandemic April 2019.

Descartes says the strong growth in container import volume in April continued to track to 2019 volumes for the first four months of 2023, with a difference of 1.5% for the same period in each year. While West Coast labor negotiations appear to be progressing, a new contract has still not been finalized.

“Despite the volume increase in April 2023, port transit delays were much lower 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, in April 2023 overall U.S. container import volume increased by 167,174 TEUs compared to March. The Port of New York and New Jersey had the highest overall container volume increase, with an additional 54,466 TEUs, followed by the Port of Savannah with a 24,923 TEU gain over March.

Descartes’ latest update comes as the National Retail Federation downgraded its container imports forecast for the year amid a larger than anticipated decline in imports in the first half despite the recent rise in import cargo volumes from February lows.

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