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Shipping containers are unloaded from ships at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

U.S. Container Imports See Biggest Drop in Over a Decade

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 3272
February 20, 2023

Container imports into the U.S. recored the biggest decline in more than a decade last month.

In his latest ports report, industry veteran John McCown said inbound containers at the ten largest U.S. ports declined 17.9% year over year in January, marking the highest monthly decline since the 2008 financial crisis. January now marks seven straight months of expanding year over year declines.

Granted, the first half of last year set multiple monthly records as the pandemic-driven imports surge continued in the first six months of 2022 before dropping off.

West Coast ports once again the biggest declines in January, down 23.5% yoy, as potential labor unrest continues to strain on volumes. For comparison, East and Gulf Coast ports showed only a 12.6% decline in January.

“Inbound loads this January compared to January 2019 equated to a four-year CAGR of negative 1.4%,” writes McCown. “Widening the month to month comparison back to 2017 before any tariff impact results in a positive 0.9% six-year CAGR. Those rates are well below the 4.0% twenty-year CAGR in a comparison of total annual inbound loads in 2022 versus 2002.”

On the other hand, containerized exports continue to improve with outbound volume up 11.9% last month to a little more than 811,000 TEUs, marking the third monthly gain and best month out of the last 20, according to McCown.

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