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U.S. Container Import Volume Increases in September, Defying Seasonal Decline

Container loading in a Cargo freight ship with industrial crane. Container ship in import and export business logistic company. Industry and Transportation concept.

U.S. Container Import Volume Increases in September, Defying Seasonal Decline

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1057
October 10, 2023

U.S. container import volume unexpectedly rose slightly in September compared to the previous month, contrary to the typical decline seen in the last third of the year, according to the latest Global Shipping Report released by Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq: DSGX) (TSX:DSG) on Monday.

U.S. container import volumes in September increased by 0.3% compared to August, reaching a total of 2,203,452 TEUs. Compared to September 2022, TEU volume was slightly lower by 0.6%, but marked an increase of 8.0% from the pre-pandemic September 2019 levels.

The growth in import volume over the first nine months of 2023 is now within 2.5% of the same period in 2019.

Chart courtesy Descartes

Descartes’ report highlights that imports from China saw a notable increase, contributing to a larger share of Chinese imports in the total U.S. imports. Interestingly, despite the rise in volume, port transit times for the top West Coast ports remained close to their lowest levels since Descartes began tracking them. However, the top East and Gulf Coast ports experienced extended transit times.

While the Panama drought does not seem to be impacting U.S. container import volume, it has led to increased transit times. According to the logistics metrics tracked by Descartes, there are some deviations from the 2019 results and indications that certain key challenges to global supply chain performance in 2023 have stabilized, while others have not.

Commenting on the unexpected increase, Chris Jones, EVP Industry Descartes, stated, “The September increase in U.S. container imports defies the traditional fall decline observed over the past six years, and imports from China played a significant role in these results. While the Panama drought does not seem to be affecting Gulf Coast port volumes, port transit times are beginning to extend.”

Descartes’ report coincides with the latest data from the National Retail Federation, which revealed that September imports are projected at 1.94 million TEUs, a slight decrease from the 1.96 TEUs imported in August. It is important to note that the NRF’s figures for September are not yet final.

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