US Ports Experience Another Strong Month As Container Flows Continue To Rise

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  • March was another stellar month for the main US ports, with imports at the country’s ten largest gateways growing nearly 20% year on year, according to new figures from analyst John McCown.
  • Despite the growth rate being slightly less marked than February’s, it testifies to the continuing strength of the world’s largest economy.
  • Los Angeles remained the country’s most important import gateway, followed by New York & New Jersey and Long Beach.
  • Meanwhile, US exports also continued their upward trajectory, growing 7.6% year on year, with Los Angeles overtaking Houston as the country’s leading export port.

According to new figures from analyst John McCown, the main US ports enjoyed another stellar month in March, with imports at the country’s ten largest gateways growing nearly 20% year on year. These ports handle 86% of US import traffic.

Inbound Container Growth

Inbound containers saw a growth of 19.2% compared with March 2023. John McCown noted, “The strong 19.2% increase in March underscores that we are seeing exceptional strength in inbound volumes, regardless of the timing impact of the Chinese New Year.”

Key Import Gateways

Los Angeles remained the country’s most important import gateway, handling just under 380,000 TEU, growing slightly below the market, at 18.6%. New York & New Jersey was second, with 343,000 TEU and growth of 19.6%, with Long Beach third, with 302,500 TEU and showing the slowest growth of the top 10 ports, at 8.4%.

Export Growth

US exports also continued their upward trajectory, growing 7.6% year on year to reach 930,500 TEU in a month that saw Los Angeles overtake Houston as the country’s leading export port. LA handled 144,718 TEU in exports, a 47.3% year-on-year leap, while Houston handled 134,221 TEU, a more moderate growth of 12%.

Mixed Performance at Other Ports

It was a much more mixed performance at some of the other main ports, with Long Beach down 21.3% on March 2023 and Norfolk and Charleston essentially flat in exports.

Comparison with Pre-Pandemic Levels

Comparing last month with pre-pandemic March 2019, the strongest growth was seen at Houston, with Seattle/Tacoma as the US laggard. “For example, in a comparison of imports, Houston showed an annual growth rate of 8.5%, followed by Los Angeles at 5%. In contrast, Seattle/Tacoma had a negative annual rate of 4.5%,” wrote Mr. McCown.

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Source: The Loadstar