West Coast ports sink to lowest share of US imports since early 1980s

photo of a container port crane

The West Coast was the destination of choice for Asian exports in the initial stage of the COVID buying boom — before container-ship queues stymied the ports. 

Since then, volumes have been redirected to the East and Gulf Coasts due to fears of both California congestion and West Coast port labor strife. There has been a major shift in cargo flows. East and Gulf coast ports now boast significantly more imports than West Coast ports.

Best month ever for East/Gulf coast ports

Data from McCown...


US imports keep chugging along, still up double digits vs. pre-COVID

photo of Savannah, a port with heavy container import volumes

Containerized goods are still flooding into the U.S. at a near-record pace. Port throughput in August came in just under all-time highs. The pileup of waiting ships off East and Gulf Coast ports remains almost as bad as ever.

U.S imports totaled 2,529,042 twenty-foot equivalent units in August, according to Descartes. That’s down 1.8% year on year (y/y), marking the first time since July 2020 that Descartes’ monthly tally has not increased y/y.

(Chart: Descartes. Source: Descartes Datamyne)



Only 8 ships waiting off Southern California — but 41 off Savannah

photo of a container ship arriving in Savannah

And then there were eight. That’s the number of container ships waiting for berths at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Monday, the lowest tally since the early stages of consumers’ COVID-era buying spree. The epic container ship traffic jam that was once a highly visible symbol of the supply chain crisis has now almost vanished.

It’s a different story for North America as a whole, however. The number of container vessels waiting offshore of all ports has remained roughly steady at an...


Trans-Pacific rates still sinking. Trans-Atlantic rates still peaking

a photo of a container shipping port in Bremerhaven

It’s a tale of two oceans: The price to ship containers of cargo from Asia to the U.S. across the Pacific continues to recede from record levels. In contrast, the price to ship containers across the Atlantic from Europe has risen through 2022 and is still hovering near all-time highs.

Vessel backups remain historically severe off Savannah, Georgia, New York/New Jersey and Houston, whereas conditions have dramatically improved off Los Angeles/Long Beach. Reduced congestion is a negative for spot...


Despite billions in canceled orders, container imports stay near peak

Walmart said Tuesday that it had “canceled billions of dollars in orders to help align inventory levels with expected demand.” Target disclosed the following day that it had canceled over $1.5 billion in orders, and revealed that it had shipped in much of its back-to-school goods early.

Nevertheless, U.S. import activity keeps chugging along near all-time highs.

Unprecedented throughput at the nation’s terminals has not been enough to clear queues of waiting ships. As of Thursday morning, there...


US containerized imports keep record pace in June, start strong in July

photo showing container shipping imports

Recession fears abound, yet America’s ports keep racking up historically high numbers. Last month was the country’s best June ever for containerized imports. This month looks like it will be the best or second-best July.

According to The McCown Report, imports to the top 10 U.S. ports rose 5.9% year on year (y/y) to 2.16 million twenty-foot equivalent units, exceeding the 3% y/y gain in May and 5.1% gain in April.

Volumes continued to shift eastward. Imports to the top East/Gulf Coast ports rose...


There’s still over $40B in cargo on container ships waiting offshore

photo of a container ship waiting offshore

Anchorages continue to fill with waiting container ships off East and Gulf Coast ports, where vessel queues have now far outgrown those off the West Coast. Along all three coasts combined, the number of waiting container vessels remains exceptionally high.

There were 125 container ships waiting off North American ports on Friday morning, according to an analysis of ship-tracking data from MarineTraffic and queue numbers from Southern California.

That’s down from almost 150 at the beginning of...


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