- Ports across the country reported record-breaking numbers in March, as consumer spending drove demand for ocean shipping, according to recent numbers reported by ports.
- The Port of Los Angeles' import volume rose nearly 123% YoY in March to reach 490,115 TEUs — up almost 65% compared to the same month in 2019. The Port of Long Beach had its busiest month of all time in March, despite the month being "traditionally one of the slowest months on the shipping calendar," the port said in a press release.
- The Port of Los Angeles has averaged more than 900,000 TEUs over the last nine months. "This is what I meant by 'March Madness,' because I've not witnessed a sustained import surge of this magnitude in all my years in the industry," Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said on a press call last week.
Import volume is surging, one year after blank sailings and pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders led cargo numbers to plummet at ocean gateways across the country. Imported TEUs grew by almost 51% YoY across the U.S. in March, according to figures from S&P's Panjiva.
These numbers are being driven by import levels from Asia. Imports from China were up 177% YoY while imports from Vietnam were up almost 75% YoY, according to S&P.
Figures on what is being imported highlight how consumer demand is driving the surge. S&P's numbers show that imports of leisure products, including toys and workout equipment, rose almost 95% YoY, and imports of home furnishing items rose more than 91% YoY.
The wave of imports hitting U.S. shores is not expected to let up anytime soon. The National Retail Federation expects the high levels to last through the summer, according to a forecast released this month.
"Between federal stimulus checks and money saved by staying home for the better part of a year, consumers have money in their pockets and they’re spending it with retailers as fast as retailers can stock their shelves," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement.
The three-week forecast from the Port of Los Angeles shows volume up on a YoY basis through April.
The high levels of imports have led to issues with port congestion over the last few months. But Seroka noted there have been some encouraging trends on this front with container dwell at the terminals dropping to 3.8 days from a high of 5 days in February. Street dwell has also fallen to 6.8 days from 7.6 in February.
And the number of container ships waiting to anchor was 20 when Seroka gave his remarks. The port had seen up to 40 containerships waiting at anchor in early February, according to figures from The Marine Exchange of Southern California.
The Port of Los Angeles will likely see ships waiting at anchor through May or June, but this will be quickly followed by the port's traditional peak season in July and August, Seroka said.
Congestion issues have spread to other ports, too, with Hapag-Lloyd warning of long anchorage lines at the Port of Oakland, where 24 ships were at anchor this month, double the previous month, according to S&P's Panjiva.