U.S. Container Imports Continue to Gain and Show Strong Growth

May 2024 marked another month of remarkable growth for U.S. container imports, registering a 6.2% increase from April and an 11.9% upswing year-on-year, according to data from Descartes Systems Group’s June Global Shipping Report.

The figures underline the continued strength of imports in the first five months of 2024. Compared to May 2023, twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) import volume swelled by 11.9%, furthering the exceptional year-over-year performance. From April 2024, import volumes rose by 6.2% to total 2,346,382 TEUs—the highest monthly total year-to-date.

Chinese imports into the U.S. continued their upward trajectory in May, reaching the second highest monthly volume since January of 2023. Despite being 11.3% lower than the peak of August 2022, May 2024 figures surged 17.6% over the previous month.

Meanwhile, transit delays at ports continue to improve, with minimal impact from the Panama drought or the Middle East conflict on the East and Gulf Coast import volumes.

However, despite the strong U.S. container imports, the report notes that the global supply chain remains vulnerable to disruptions due to ongoing issues at the Panama and Suez Canals and the continuing conflict in the Middle East.

At the end of May, the Panama Canal Authority announced plans to increase the number of transits per day from 31 to 32, still short of the regular operating capacity of 36, as Gatun Lake water levels rise with the onset of rainy season.

Shipping concerns are anticipated to continue in the Middle East, as ongoing threats on shipping in the Red Sea continue to force shippers to reroute cargo.

Labor negotiations at U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports are another potential disruptor. The International Longshoremen’s Association has advised members to prepare for the possibility of a coast-wide strike in October 2024 if no resolution is reached regarding the agreement set to expire at the end of September 2024.


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