More than 130 container ships awaiting entrance to US ports

Published on
August 30, 2022
A US port

More than 130 vessels are waiting to unload at North American ports, an ongoing symptom of supply-chain bottlenecks that have stymied the global economy.

U.S. imports totaled 2.53 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) in July, up 3 percent year-over-year and up 15 percent from July 2019, according to new data from Descartes, per FreightWaves. It was the country's busiest-ever July for imports, and the fifth-highest monthly volume ever recorded by Descartes.

“A number of factors – such as a slowing economy, inflation, and high fuel costs – have not had the anticipated impact [of] slowing down U.S. container imports,” Descartes said.

The port of Savannah, Georgia, has 39 vessels waiting and the port of Houston has 22 cargo ships waiting, per CNBC.

U.S. East Coast ports may face further delays due to the ongoing workers' strike at the U.K. port of Felixstowe. The strike may impact U.S. imports once its own backlog is sorted out, MarineTraffic U.S. Western Region Captain Adil Ashiq told CNBC.

U.S. shipments from China rebounded in July, rising 6.3 percent compared to a year ago and up 6.9 percent from June.

“More containerized cargo was imported from China in July than in any other month this year, with Chinese goods accounting for 75 percent of the year-on-year TEU increase,” FreightWaves said.

Despite the increase in imports over the summer, U.S. imports are expected to slow significantly in the second half of 2022, according to the National Retail Federation's and Hackett Associates's monthly Global Port Tracker report.

“Retail sales are still growing, but the economy is slowing down and that is reflected in cargo imports,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a press release. “Lower volumes may help ease congestion at some ports, but others are still seeing backups and global supply chain challenges are far from over. Our biggest concern is the potential for disruption because of separate labor negotiations at the West Coast ports and the freight railroads. Concluding both sets of negotiations without disruption is critical as the important holiday season approaches."

Photo courtesy of mariakray/Shutterstock 

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