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July 3, 2023

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July 3, 2023 | Journal of Commerce 21 Top Trans-Pacific Carriers and Ports the Census Bureau said. The inven- tories-to-sales ratio also climbed to 1.4 in April, up from a 1.31 reading in April 2022. The import declines so far this year have been mostly evenly dis- tributed across major US gateways. In the first five months of 2023, Asia imports though the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have declined 32% and 25%, respectively, over the same period in 2022, PIERS data shows. Also on the West Coast, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma saw a drop of 33.3% in the first five months of 2023. Ocean carriers have particu- larly targeted weekly services to the Pacific Northwest for cuts and blank sailings due to the weak demand. Despite some cargo diversions from the West Coast over concerns about labor unrest, East Coast ports have not fared much better. The two largest East Coast gateways, the ports of New York and New Jersey and Savannah, saw imports from Asia decline 30.8% and 26.1%, respec- tively, through May. Only Houston has shown a more modest decline among top US ports, with its Asia import volumes declin- ing 6.1% in the first five months of 2023 from the same period last year. Narrowing the gap The latest data from PIERS dove- tails with projections from the latest Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, which forecasts a 22.3% year-over-year drop in total US imports in the first half of 2023 due to slower consumer spending and record-setting comparisons in the first half of 2022. Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said in a statement accom- panying the forecast that the "decline AS US RETAIL sales continue to slow in the first half of 2023, import volumes remain on track for double-digit declines from a year earlier. However, analysts and port officials are increasingly confident that those declines will narrow into the second half of the year. Total US imports hit 2.07 million TEUs in May, according to data from PIERS, a sister company of the Jour- nal of Commerce within S&P Global. Although it was the highest total import volume so far in 2023, the May number was still down 20.4% from the same month in 2022, joining a string of double-digit year-over-year declines since last November. Imports from China, the United States' third-largest trading partner, once again paced the declines, falling 20% year over year to 825,728 TEUs in May. Even with the decline, May showed the highest level of Chinese imports since September 2022. Including China, total US imports from Asia tumbled 22.1% year over year to 1.38 million TEUs in May, leav- ing eastbound trans-Pacific volumes down 26% in the first five months of the year, PIERS data shows. The latest import figures come as the US Census Bureau reported June 15 that its advance estimate for retail sales shows scant 0.7% year-over-year growth in May, the second-lowest rate of growth for 2023. That follows a similarly weak April, which showed retail sales growth of 0.2% from a year earlier, the lowest so far in 2023. The slowdown in sales meant that US companies were barely able to make a dent in inventories. April manufacturer and trade inventories were up 5.2% from a year earlier, a new container terminal in Vancou- ver, the proposed Roberts Bank 2, and how potential automation might impact longshore labor demand. A week before the prior five-year ILWU Canada contract was set to expire at the end of March, the union asked the Canadian federal govern- ment for help, citing a lack of "mean- ingful" progress in negotiations with the BCMEA. In May 2019, an impasse in con- tract negotiations spurred employers to lock out ILWU workers at Vancou- ver for less than 24 hours before a tentative agreement was reached. JOC email: twitter: @michael_angell Slowing descent Double-digit percentage import declines to shrink in third quarter By Michael Angell "The BCMEA remains committed to bargaining in good faith." "We're seeing an uptick in ships bound for Los Angeles, which is an encouraging sign."

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