In December 2023, the volume of container imports in the United States grew 0.4% over November 2023. Despite modest growth, there were noteworthy fluctuations in volume observed at ports along the West, East, and Gulf Coasts. Notably, major ports on the East and Gulf Coasts reported increases, while those on the West Coast witnessed declines. Surprisingly, the Panama drought did not seem to have a significant impact on container import volumes at East and Gulf Coast ports in December. However, port delay times increased, particularly at Gulf Coast ports. Although December saw an escalation in Middle East shipping attacks, there was no apparent effect on container import volumes for the month. The latest logistics metrics update from Descartes in January indicates that container import volume aligns with typical seasonal patterns, but there are indications that global supply chain performance may face challenges in 2024 due to conditions at the Panama and Suez Canals and upcoming labor negotiations.
In December 2023, the volume of U.S. container imports saw a 0.4% uptick compared to November 2023, reaching 2,107,012 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) (refer to Figure 1). In comparison to December 2022, the TEU volume showed a 9.2% rise, and it marked a 10.6% increase from the pre-pandemic levels of December 2019. Although the import volume growth for the entire year of 2023 is close, trailing by only 4.6% compared to the same period in 2019, it represents an 11.7% decline from the figures recorded in 2022.
Figure 1: Year-over-Year U.S. Container Import Volumes
Source: Descartes Datamyne™
Port Transit Delays
Transit delays at ports showed a general increase in December 2023 (refer to Figure 2). Notably, the leading West Coast ports witnessed overall rises, despite substantial volume declines at Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Tacoma. Additionally, the Port of Houston encountered a notable increase in transit times, whereas most East Coast ports experienced marginal decreases.
Figure 2: Monthly Average Transit Delays (in days) for the Top 10 Ports
Source: Descartes Datamyne™
Note: Descartes’ definition of port transit delay is the difference as measured in days between the Estimated Arrival Date, which is initially declared on the bill of lading, and the date when Descartes receives the CBP-processed bill of lading.
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With the world’s largest searchable trade database covering 230 markets across five continents, Datamyne sources its data directly from official filings with customs agencies and trade ministries. This includes detailed information, down to company names and contact details, making it both timely and authoritative. The inclusion of bills of lading information ensures robust import coverage.
In addition to providing trade intelligence through shipping data, Descartes’ software solutions feature a landed cost tool. This tool aids in calculating the economic viability of importing from various markets. Furthermore, Descartes applications include a screening feature that checks against multiple denied parties lists simultaneously. This screening process helps organizations ensure that they are not engaging in business with entities listed on official government watch lists.
Noth: This report is based on the initial compiled release of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data and may be subject to revision by CBP at a later date. Any revised data can be accessed through Descartes Datamyne.
This is an excerpt of an article originally posted in the Descartes Global Shipping Report Resource Center. If you are looking for how Datamyne’s global trade and shipping data can help you, Contact Us.