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A cargo ship is moored in the Port of Long Beach while cranes retrieve cargo containers from the ship

Port of Long Beach. Photo: Richard H Grant /

U.S. Container Imports Show Strong Growth Amid Global Unrest

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May 9, 2024

In April 2024, U.S. container import volumes rose by 3.0% from March and 9.3% year-on-year, indicating a strong economy despite global instability, according to Descartes Systems Group’s May Global Shipping Report.

After a notable drop in March 2024, Chinese imports rebounded April to match the levels from April 2023. Meanwhile, transit delays at major U.S. ports continue to decrease. The Panama drought and escalating Middle East conflict have had minimal impact on the volumes at East and Gulf Coast ports.

Despite a robust first quarter in 2024, the U.S. is expected to continue to face challenges from global supply chain disruptions. Ongoing issues at the Panama and Suez Canals, upcoming labor negotiations at U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, the ongoing Middle East conflict, and reduced U.S. port capacity due to the March collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are all potential obstacles.

U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison
U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

Compared to April 2023, the volume of U.S. container imports in April 2024 saw an impressive 9.3% increase. Furthermore, the April 2024 volumes represented a 3% rise from March 2024, totaling 2,208,849 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Descartes’ April report suggested that the effects of the Chinese Lunar Year may have suppressed the growth in March 2024, which could explain the softer growth in April.

Compared to the pre-pandemic levels of April 2019, last month’s volume increased by 15.1%.

“Despite the March closure at the Port of Baltimore, U.S. imports showed strong performance in April, as they have since January 2024 as compared to 2023,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry, Descartes. “Port delays also showed continued improvement in April, as volumes at East and Gulf Coast ports have experienced little impact from either the Panama drought or Middle East conflict.”

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