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U.S. Ocean Imports Continue Slide

U.S. ocean imports ended 2022 near pre-pandemic levels—and the shipping sector is readying for further declines in container volumes, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “American ports handled 1,929,032 inbound containers in December, measured in 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, down 1.3% from November, according to a report released Tuesday by Descartes Datamyne, a trade intelligence database owned by supply-chain software company Descartes Systems Group Inc.”

  • “December marked the lowest level for seaborne imports since June 2020, just before a pandemic-driven rush to restock depleted inventories triggered a surge in imports.”

Why it’s important: The dip in container numbers and other signs point to a global trade slowdown, as inflation hits consumer demand.

  • U.S. imports declined 6.4% from October to November, according to the Commerce Department.
  • The import volumes that swamped ports during the latter half of 2021 and the first half of 2022 are now largely gone.

What’s likely ahead: “The Global Port Tracker report …[,] released Monday, estimates January import volumes will fall 11.5% from last year and February imports will slide 23% to about 1.61 million TEUs. That would put trade behind the pre-pandemic levels and roughly equivalent to imports in early 2020, when Covid lockdowns crashed global shipping volume.”

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