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April 2021 is busiest April ever for US box imports from Asia

  • Some 1.57 million TEUs arrived in the US from Asia in April 2021, making this the busiest April on record and the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year growth
  • Container import boom shows no sign of slowing as lockdown eases and spending on consumer goods, especially online shopping, continues unabated
  • This high volume is set to stay for the months ahead, adding pressure on seaports and inland rail hubs, delaying cargoes, and raising total shipping costs
  • Container shipping capacity is only going to get tighter in the coming weeks as retailers bring in traditional peak season volumes to support the winter holiday shopping season

US containerized imports from Asia jumped by 31% from the same month in 2020 and rose 27.4% from April 2019, with no sign of slowdown in the import boom, according to PIERS by IHS Markit.

About 1.57 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) arrived in the US from Asia last month, making April 2021 the busiest April on record and the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year growth.

Imports from China were particularly strong with an increase of 40.2% from April 2020, contributing to growing import volumes at US West Coast ports.

RELATED READ: US West Coast imports continue upswing in April 

“The container import boom shows no sign of slowing as lockdown eases and spending on consumer goods, especially online shopping [continues to grow]. This high volume is set to stay with us for the months ahead as the economy recovers,” said Brendan Neary associate director at PIERS, a global business intelligence service provider on international trade activity.

Total US containerized imports in April increased by 28.4% compared to the same time last year, according to PIERS. China remains the largest source of US containerized imports, representing around 40.5% of total US imports.

Indicators suggest that container shipping capacity is only going to get tighter in the coming weeks as retailers bring in traditional peak season volumes to support the winter holiday shopping season, said PIERS.

“The unrelenting import volumes will add pressure on seaports and inland rail hubs, delaying cargoes and raising total shipping costs,” said Mark Szakonyi, executive editor of The Journal of Commerce by IHS Markit.

Imports from Asia in the Los Angeles-Long Beach gateway in January through April totaled 3.1 million TEUs, an increase of 46% from the same period last year.

US East Coast ports, which handle a larger volume of imports from Southeast Asia via the Suez Canal, saw their market share from Asia drop slightly to 33% in the first four months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.

Photo by Ron Clausen

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