In December 2023, U.S. container import volume increased 0.4% from November 2023. The slight aggregate increase masks counter-intuitive swings in volume at the West, East and Gulf Coast ports, according to recent reports from Descartes Systems Group.
“December was a solid month and it’s fair to say that U.S. import container volume over the year was beyond what the market anticipated last January,” says Chris Jones, EVP industry, Descartes. “The impact of the drought in Panama did not appear to impact Gulf Coast ports volumes in December, but transit times did grow considerably in the region. Now we have the conflict in the Middle East affecting transit through the Suez Canal and U.S import container import volumes could be impacted starting in January.”
- The top East and Gulf Coast ports saw increases, while the top West Coast ports saw decreases. The Panama drought did not appear to impact U.S. container import volume at East and Gulf Coast ports in December, but port delay times increased particularly at Gulf Coast ports.
- The Middle East shipping attacks escalated in December, but container import volumes do not appear to have impacted December. The January update of the logistics metrics shows container import volume consistent with seasonal import patterns but signs that global supply chain performance will be under pressure in 2024 because of the conditions at the Panama and Suez Canals and upcoming labor negotiations.
- December 2023 U.S. container import volumes increased 0.4% from November 2023 to 2,107,012 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) vs. December 2022, TEU volume was higher by 9.2%, and up 10.6% from pre-pandemic December 2019. The growth in import volume for all of 2023 is within 4.6% of the same period in 2019, but down 11.7% versus 2022.