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HomeBreaking NewsUS containerized imports from Asia hit 1.6M TEUs in Sep

US containerized imports from Asia hit 1.6M TEUs in Sep

  • September containerized imports from Asia into US reached 1.6 million TEUs, up 14% above pre-Covid levels
  • The elevated import levels send a clear message that the port-related congestion problems are likely to continue into 2022
  • Due to the continuing delays at US ports, consumer goods from Asia will need to have cleared US ports by now, or risk not making it into shopping baskets this Christmas
  • The number of container vessels off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is back to 70, erasing the gradual improvement over the past few weeks

Some 1.59 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of imports into the US arrived in September from Asia, up 13.8% from pre-Covid September 2019, showing port congestion remains far from over, according to data from IHS Markit.

“The elevated imports levels from Asia send a clear message that the port-related congestion problems are likely to continue into 2022,” said IHS Markit, a leading information and analytics provider.

It added that imported consumer goods should arrive in the US at least six weeks earlier than normal to make it onto shelves in time for Black Friday. Due to the continuing delays at US ports, consumer goods from Asia will need to have cleared US ports by now, compared to a usual early November cut-off date, or risk not making it into shopping baskets this Christmas.

Many retailers prioritized their holiday season shipping needs to get goods in early. The latest US containerized import data shows signs of a slowdown, indicating the “rush” to get goods into the US might be starting to slow, according to data from PIERS by IHS Markit.

“Given the delays in the supply chain and ongoing port congestion, most retailers have prioritised their holiday goods this year, aiming to get them into the country earlier than usual,” said Mark Szakonyi, executive editor of The Journal of Commerce by IHS Markit.

“Unless importers shell out for significantly higher air cargo rates consumer goods that are not in the country by now are unlikely to make it under the tree,” he added.

Port performance data by IHS Markit shows that the time vessels spend in key US West Coast ports waiting and unloading cargo deteriorated significantly in August 2021 to 348 hours for Los Angeles (versus 255 hours in July 2021) and 268 hours for Long Beach (versus 190 hours in July 2021).

“These numbers are around triple what they would have been before the pandemic in August 2019,” the report said.

Container shipping expert Lars Jensen said that as of October 19, 2021, the number of container vessels in the water outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was back to 70, “once more showing that the gradual improvement over the past few weeks have essentially been undone.”

While demand for imports might been slowing from the initial post-pandemic bounce, the global supply chain is also being impacted by the recent Covid outbreaks in China and Vietnam as well as power outages in China leading to more delays in shipments, noted IHS Markit.

“What’s happening in the container shipping market is not entirely a demand-driven phenomenon anymore. Months of COVID-19-induced stress has led to the container supply chain being broken, while the distress continues to be accentuated by congestion, landside restrictions, and lack of equipment,” said Rahul Kapoor, vice president for maritime and trade at IHS Markit.

The slowdown in imports could be short lived as retailers need to re-stock their warehouses after the holiday sales.

“Despite some short-term let-up, we see the global container and import bottle necks continuing well into the next year. Shipping costs remain elevated and with so much dislocation of containers and port delays, importers and retailers will need to get used to things taking longer and being more expensive to reach the shops,” said Szakonyi.

Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash

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