US Asian imports hit records in December on Covid gear and ecommerce

US imports from Asia were up 29

01 February 2021 - 19:00
US imports from Asia were up 29.9 per cent in December year on year to 1.626 million TEU, behind October and August, according to PIERS data, reports IHS Media.

For all of 2020, imports from Asia totalled 16.6 million TEU, up 4.1 per cent from 2019, with the import surge beginning in late June.

This is expected to continue for two months as retailers ship in more before some factories in Asia close for the Chinese New Year. .

December is normally a slow month in the eastbound transpacific, as most of the holiday merchandise has been shipped, and the product moved via rail to inland hubs. But record e-commerce sales as well as shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies changed all that.

As imports entered the supply chain, congestion rose at intermodal hubs in the interior. Intermodal traffic of all kinds rose 2.38 per cent in December from November, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

It was the first time since 2015 that December's intermodal volume was stronger than in November. Intermodal volume in the fourth quarter was up 9.62 per cent from Q4 2019, the strongest year-over-year quarterly growth rate since December 2013, according to IANA.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and New York-New Jersey suffered from congestion because a large portion of last year's imports were squeezed into the final six months of the year.

Also, container shortages emerged at Asian load ports, and shipments were rolled. In December, 37 per cent of containers at Shanghai were rolled over till the next voyage, according to supply chain visibility provider Ocean Insights. Rollover ratio in Port Klang was 55 per cent last month, ands 42 per cent in Singapore.

Vessels were so backed up at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handles about 50 per cent of US imports from Asia, in December that 28 to 30 vessels each day had to sit at anchor outside the ports waiting for berthing space to open, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Waits of seven days or longer were common.

Equipment shortages surfaced in Chicago and Minneapolis when intermodal volumes spiked last fall in Chicago and in Minneapolis-St Paul last month.

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