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  April 9th, 2024 | Written by

Descartes Releases April Global Shipping Report: March U.S. Import Container Volume Continues Strong Trajectory

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Descartes Systems Group, the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, released its April Global Shipping Report for logistics and supply chain professionals. In March 2024, U.S. container import volumes increased 0.4% from February, but jumped 15.7% when compared to the same month last year, indicating exceptional growth when considering the impact of the Chinese Lunar New Year on the second half of March.

Compared to February 2024, imports from China continued to decline because of the Chinese Lunar New Year, reflected by a significant volume loss at the Port of Los Angeles for the second consecutive month. Port transit delays continue to improve as the drought in Panama and Middle East conflict have yet to impact East and Gulf Coast ports. April’s update of logistics metrics monitored by Descartes show that the first quarter of 2024 has been a strong start for U.S. container imports; however, concerns around global supply chain performance are still expected throughout the year because of ongoing conditions at the Panama and Suez Canals, upcoming labor negotiations at U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, Middle East conflict, and the impact of the Baltimore Bridge collapse which remains to be fully reflected in U.S. container import volume data.

U.S. container imports maintain year-over-year strength.

March 2024 U.S. container import volumes remained mostly flat from February 2024, increasing only 0.4% to 2,145,341 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) (see Figure 1). Versus March 2023, however, TEU volume was higher by 15.7%, and up 20.6% from pre-pandemic March 2019, demonstrating that year-over-year performance remains strong. The Chinese Lunar New Year may have masked even stronger growth as it occurred on February 11 and the holiday extended the entire week, which means its impact on U.S. imports did not occur until the second half of March 2024. For a more representative view, Descartes compared the first 15 days of March 2024 to the same time period in 2023 as these time periods were less likely to be impacted by the Chinese Lunar New Year. In this timeframe, U.S. container import growth was 22.7%.

Figure 1. U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

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Source: Descartes Datamyne™

 “Considering declining import volumes from China, March 2024 was a strong month and continues the robust performance that began in January 2024,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry, Descartes. “Despite the combined effect of the Panama drought and the conflict in the Middle East, port transit delays showed continued improvement across nearly all the top ports, as March volumes at East and Gulf Coast ports remained stable.”

The April report is Descartes’ thirty-second installment since beginning its analysis in August 2021. To read past reports, learn more about the key economic and logistics factors driving the global shipping crisis, and review strategies to help address it in the near-, short- and long-term, visit Descartes’ Global Shipping Resource Center.