Import Traffic Continues Roller Coaster Ride

There are signs that imports to the U.S. are starting to pick up again, but it remains to be seen if that will continue or fall back later.

Container traffic to the United States, some of which is transported by rail once reaching a port, fell in March, rebounded somewhat in April but began falling again in May, reported an analysis by e-newsletter FreightWaves.

But now some importers are finding they pulled back too soon on their imports and need to step them up in light of the reopening of various businesses shut down this spring by state and local social distancing restricting seeking to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Shipping companies canceled 20 percent of their inbound container capacity to the U.S. in May and June after importers cancelled orders for goods.

At least two previously cancelled sailings have been reinstated due to an increase in imports and shippers report that most of their vessels are traveling the Pacific with full loads when they do sail.

Thus far shippers have canceled 10 percent of their planned sailings for July, but shipping business observers caution that it is too soon to say if this is a trend.

Maersk Line, the world’s largest carrier, expects volumes to be down as much as 25 percent through June and sees the third quarter of this year as unclear.

Observers say the combination of high unemployment, business bankruptcies and loss of consumer confidence could cause the up and down nature of imports to continue in the second half of this year.

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