Insights into U.S. Port Performance and Import Challenges in 2023

Ken Miller, President of StateWay Logistics, February 12th 2024

In 2023, the Port of New York and New Jersey achieved remarkable success, exceeding pre-Covid volumes from 2019 by 4.4%. Throughout the year, the port consistently maintained its positive momentum, with U.S. container import volume rising by nearly 10% in December compared to the same month the previous year, and continuing to surpass pre-pandemic levels during the peak shipping season. While the report indicated no immediate impacts from Red Sea shipping disruptions through December, potential effects could begin to emerge in the following month

In December 2023, U.S. container import volumes reached 2.1 million TEUs, marking a significant 9.2% increase from December 2022 and a substantial 10.6% growth compared to the pre-pandemic levels of December 2019. Conversely, the growth compared to November 2023 was more modest, at 0.4%. Throughout 2023, the total U.S. import volumes comprised 4.6% of 2019 totals, signifying an 11.7% decline compared to 2022, when the pandemic-induced surge in imports eventually waned. Despite a slight overall increase in month-over-month aggregate volume at ports, there were unexpected fluctuations in coastal performance. The primary East and Gulf Coast ports experienced expansion, driven by considerable volume surges at the Port of Houston, while the main West Coast ports saw decreases, particularly at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Consequently, the East and Gulf Coast ports bolstered their share of U.S. container imports to nearly 45%, while the top West Coast ports observed a decrease in market share to 39.7%.

Interestingly, the drought in the Panama Canal did not appear to significantly affect U.S. container import volumes at East and Gulf Coast ports in December, as volumes rebounded following a substantial decline in the previous month. Port delay times increased across the board in December, notably at Gulf Coast ports, where the Port of Houston saw the most significant container volume increase (30%) compared to November. December proved to be a robust month, and it is reasonable to assert that U.S. import container volumes throughout the year exceeded market expectations from the previous January. While the impact of the Panama drought did not seem to impact Gulf Coast ports’ volumes in December, transit times notably lengthened in the region. However, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East is now affecting transit through the Suez Canal, and there is a potential for U.S. import container volumes to be impacted starting in 2024.

About the Author:

Ken Miller is a highly accomplished professional with a wealth of experience in the logistics industry. He currently holds the position of President & Managing Director at StateWay Logistics, a comprehensive logistics firm that covers all transportation modes. In addition, he also leads Dray Solutions, a software solutions company that specializes in providing advanced technology to third-party logistics companies and carriers.

About StateWay Logistics:
StateWay Logistics is changing the way that shippers think about their 3PL relationships by driving service excellence into the three most critical areas for most supply chains: international ocean and air freight, domestic intermodal and LTL shipping, and drayage services.
For further information visit