Executive Briefings

March Madness? U.S. Imports Drop 15 Percent in One Month - Biggest Dip Since 2009

U.S. import shipment volume for March, measured in TEUs, decreased by 15 percent from February and by 12.5 percent from March of 2012. While February imports were unusually high, March imports were unusually low. In fact, imports for the month of March have not been this low since 2009.

The reason for this abnormal trend is largely due to the Chinese New Year falling later this year compared to last year, thus the lull in imports was seen a month late this year. Even with March's low import volume, overall imports for quarter one surpassed 2012 by a slight 0.11 percent.

Quick Stats for U.S. Imports in March of 2013:

1. Exporting Countries - Inbound TEUs from China dropped by nearly 36% from February, due to many Chinese factories shutting down for the holiday. Likewise, imports from Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong saw significant drops in exports to the United States. On the other hand, Japan and India picked up some market share in March, with imports from both countries rising by 17% each.

2. U.S. Ports - Imports to the U.S. west coast were down by thousands of TEUs compared to February. The Ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Port Everglades saw significant increases in March, all rising by over 15%. Overall, ports on the east and west coasts saw decreases in imports, while several Gulf coast ports saw increases.

3. Carriers - Only one of the top ten VOCCs (Vessel-Operating Common Carriers), Hapag Lloyd, saw a decrease of less than 10% from February to March. Seaboard Marine, Transfrut Express, and Hamburg Sud were a few of the rare carriers to see an increase in import volume for March.

Zepol's data is derived from bills of lading entered into U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Automated Commercial Environment. This information represents the number of house manifests entered by importers of waterborne vessel goods. This is the earliest indicator for trade data available for the previous month's import activity. The data excludes shipments from empty containers and those labeled as freight remaining on board, and may contain other data anomalies.

Source: Zepol Corp.

The reason for this abnormal trend is largely due to the Chinese New Year falling later this year compared to last year, thus the lull in imports was seen a month late this year. Even with March's low import volume, overall imports for quarter one surpassed 2012 by a slight 0.11 percent.

Quick Stats for U.S. Imports in March of 2013:

1. Exporting Countries - Inbound TEUs from China dropped by nearly 36% from February, due to many Chinese factories shutting down for the holiday. Likewise, imports from Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong saw significant drops in exports to the United States. On the other hand, Japan and India picked up some market share in March, with imports from both countries rising by 17% each.

2. U.S. Ports - Imports to the U.S. west coast were down by thousands of TEUs compared to February. The Ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Port Everglades saw significant increases in March, all rising by over 15%. Overall, ports on the east and west coasts saw decreases in imports, while several Gulf coast ports saw increases.

3. Carriers - Only one of the top ten VOCCs (Vessel-Operating Common Carriers), Hapag Lloyd, saw a decrease of less than 10% from February to March. Seaboard Marine, Transfrut Express, and Hamburg Sud were a few of the rare carriers to see an increase in import volume for March.

Zepol's data is derived from bills of lading entered into U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Automated Commercial Environment. This information represents the number of house manifests entered by importers of waterborne vessel goods. This is the earliest indicator for trade data available for the previous month's import activity. The data excludes shipments from empty containers and those labeled as freight remaining on board, and may contain other data anomalies.

Source: Zepol Corp.