Containerized Imports For April Show Upsurge, Surpass March Figures


In April 2024, U.S. container import volumes increased by 3.0% from March and 9.3% when compared to the same month last year, consistent with a strong and resilient economy in the face of global instability.  

Imports Bounce Back 

After a significant decline in March 2024, April’s Chinese imports bounced back, regaining volumes seen in April 2023. Port transit delays continue to improve across the board as there has been little impact on East and Gulf Coast import volumes from either the Panama drought or the Middle East conflict, which continues to escalate and broaden.  

May’s update of logistics metrics monitored by Descartes reinforces the success seen in the first quarter of 2024. Despite strong U.S. container imports, global supply chain disruptions are still expected throughout the year ahead because of ongoing conditions at the Panama and Suez Canals, upcoming labor negotiations at U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, the Middle East conflict, and reduced U.S. port capacity caused by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March. 

Robust Economy 

Versus April 2023, TEU import volume was up 9.3%, demonstrating exceptional year-over-year performance. April 2024 U.S. container import volumes ticked up from March 2024, increasing 3% to 2,208,849 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The effect of this likely softened April’s growth from March 2024. Compared to pre-pandemic April 2019, volume was up 15.1%. 

The March to April transition has seen strong growth in the previous six years if we ignore the impact of the pandemic (2020 – 2022). Some of this can be attributed to the impact of the Chinese Lunar New Year in March. However, in 2024, the growth month-over-month appears more muted, possibly more due to a very strong March performance than a weak April. 

For the top 10 U.S. ports, container import volume in April 2024 pushed higher with an increase of 72,454 TEUs (3.9%) versus March 2024 (see Figure 3). The ports of Long Beach (up 56,640 TEUs), Los Angeles (up 38,508 TEUs), Norfolk (up 13,615 TEUs), and Tacoma (up 10,841 TEUs) experienced the greatest container volume increases from March. The port of Oakland posted the largest decline, falling 6,833 TEUs (-9.2%).

Chinese imports into the U.S. recaptured ground in April as imports rebounded from this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year to 757,141 TEUs. Compared to the August 2022 high of 1,003,725 TEUS, in April 2024 Chinese imports in are down 24.6%, narrowing the gap slightly from March 2024 (down 30.5%).

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Source: Descartes



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