Descartes Systems Group, the global leader in uniting logistics-intensive businesses in commerce, released its September Global Shipping Report for logistics and supply chain professionals. In August 2023, U.S. container import volume increased slightly compared to July 2023, which is fairly consistent with the pattern that occurs in peak season in non-pandemic years. Despite the volume increase, port transit times remained close to their lowest levels since Descartes began tracking them. The U.S. West Coast labor situation is resolved. While the Panama drought is impacting some types of shipping, U.S. container imports do not appear to be affected to date. The September update of the logistics metrics Descartes is tracking shows continued consistency with 2019 results and signs that key challenges to global supply chain performance in 2023 have stabilized.

August 2023 U.S. container import volumes increased 0.4% from July 2023 to 2,196,268 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) (see Figure 1). Versus August 2022, TEU volume was lower by 13.2%, but up 2.5% from pre-pandemic August 2019. The growth in import volume over the first eight months of 2023 is within 2.1% of the same period in 2019.

Figure 1. U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

“In August, U.S. import container volume flattened and is still relatively consistent with the peak season patterns we would see pre-pandemic,” said Chris Jones, EVP Industry Descartes. “While the drought in Panama is affecting some shipping traffic, U.S. container import volumes do not appear to be impacted as volumes at the Gulf ports over the last two months have been at their highest levels this year (see Figure 2) and transit times have been consistently low.”

Figure 2: U.S. Gulf Coast Container Imports for 2023

Source: Descartes Datamyne™