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  December 14th, 2023 | Written by

November Sees 9% Drop in US Container Imports; Panama Drought Affects East and Gulf Coast Ports

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Descartes Systems Group (Nasdaq: DSGX) (TSX:DSG), the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, released its December Global Shipping Report for logistics and supply chain professionals. In November 2023, U.S. container import volume decreased 9% from October 2023, with East and Gulf Coast ports experiencing the greatest declines. While the decrease is large, it’s consistent with monthly reductions at the end of prior years. Imports from China also continued to decline, but at a slightly faster pace than the overall numbers. The Panama drought finally appears to be negatively impacting U.S. container import volume at East and Gulf Coast ports, which could worsen with the Panama Canal Authority’s plans to further reduce the number of daily transit slots in coming months. The December update of the logistics metrics Descartes is tracking shows a decline consistent with seasonal import patterns and signs that global supply chain performance improvements have stalled.

November 2023 U.S. container import volumes decreased 9.0% from October 2023 to 2,099,408 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) (see Figure 1). Versus November 2022, TEU volume was higher by 7.4%, and up 10.4% from pre-pandemic November 2019. The growth in import volume over the first eleven months of 2023 is within 4.0% of the same period in 2019.

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

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

“November has traditionally been a weaker month than October and while the decline is steep, it is consistent with other years’ performance,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry at Descartes. “The impact of the drought in Panama is finally hitting as volumes at the Gulf Coast ports (see Figure 2) and, in particular, the port of Houston(-26.7%) are considerably lower than the overall decline. East Coast ports experienced a significant decrease as well.”

Figure 2: U.S. Gulf Coast Container Imports for 2023

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

The November report is Descartes’ twenty-eighth 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.