The “new normal” is looking a lot like the old normal as U.S. imports continue to fall. Volumes began declining sharply in September and were already close to 2019 levels by the end of last year. They’re expected to pull even with pre-COVID numbers this month and next. Port trackers forecast that import volumes in January and February will be roughly even with pre-COVID levels then will bounce back above them again in March-May. However, there are still some big differences driving change.
- Ocean schedules have improved, but delays remain higher than they used to be. In the first week of January, the timeliness for the Asia-U.S. route was still 25% higher than three years ago.
- The coastal mix is also much different. Ports on the East and Gulf coasts continue to handle significantly higher volumes than before the pandemic. Volumes on the West Coast are much lower than they used to be.
- A new West Coast dockworker labor contract has still not been signed, over seven months after the last one expired.
- The intermodal services are still on shaky grounds following the latest congressional agreement back in December which excluded the core demands made by workers including paid sick leave
- The COVID-19 situation in China presents additional ongoing complications for supply chains.
- Inventory gluts due to the bull whip in 2022, importers brought in too much; at some point in 2023, they may find they have too little.
These situations will hold a heavy impact on how your plan and price your business for 2023 . Now’s the time to collaborate with your strategic partner to build a plan of attack. Facilitating cross-departmental discussions is imperative to understand the related challenges and goals internally so we can better support your success through process/solutions to boost productivity on an enterprise level.