Panama Canal crisis, seasonality pulled down US imports in November

Panama Canal aerial view

SeafoodSource is closely following the international shipping sector by compiling a regular round-up of updates about shipping port updates.

The flow of shipping containers to the U.S. has declined, but still remains higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

According to Freightwaves, the continuous month-over-month increase in containers entering the U.S. has ended due to seasonality in combination with poor conditions at the Panama Canal. 

In total, U.S. ports handled 2,099,408 twelve-foot container units in November, 9 percent less than in October. 

“The Panama drought finally appears to be impacting U.S. container import volume at East and Gulf Coast ports, which could worsen with the Panama Canal Authority’s plans to further reduce the number of daily transit slots in coming months,” Descartes Executive Vice President of Industry and Services Chris Jones said.

U.S. imports from China declined 11.7 percent from October, and the reduction in exports from China has accounted for half of last month’s countrywide month-on-month decline. With the declines, imports from China still accounted for 37.3 percent of total volumes in the U.S., Freightwaves said.

Despite the downturn, from January to November imports were up 4 percent compared to the same period of 2019, before Covid-19. 

According to shipping logistics firm Container xChange, there is instability in inventory, shipping services, and vessel capacities across the shipping sector entering 2024, particularly in the Euro Zone. 

“We have a poisonous mix of severely imbalanced container trade with a high level of excess inventory in Europe, and at the same time unreliable shipping services, suddenly lacking the vessel capacity to reposition empties out which in turn makes the situation even more difficult,” Container xChange CEO Christian Roeloffs said in a release.

There are approximately 150,000 excess shipping containers in Russia, with a high demand for returning containers to China.

Many Chinese companies are also selling containers below market price to clear out the surplus of containers, with offers from Moscow to Shanghai at approximately EUR 1,500 (USD 1,648), according to Container xChange. 

If cargo-worthy containers are in good condition and cost less, they prefer to sell the boxes in the local market,” Container xChange said. 

Photo courtesy of Jose Mario Espinoza/Shutterstock


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500