December 2023 International Market Update


The following information from Sunset’s International team details the current International market conditions. Customer communication is vital with the instability of international trade. 

Sunset is here to help with the most basic or complex shipments.  Email [email protected] to speak further about how to manage any International needs that arise.

Ocean Industry

  • Panama Canal – additional vessel reduction adjustments and surcharges coming:
    • Around 70% of vessels using the Panama Canal require a draft of 44 ft., which is the current limit, down from 50 ft. at the beginning of 2023. If the draft is lowered further, majority of vessels won’t be able to transit with full loads.
    • Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Administrator Richarte Vasquez outlined the challenge during a press conference in September, saying, “we will commit to 44 feet for the foreseeable future. If adjustments are required in order to maintain 44 feet, those adjustments will be on the number of transits per day.”
    • Those adjustments are now required. The ACP had previously reduced daily transit reservations slots from 36 to 32. At the beginning of November, it announced that reservation slots will gradually fall to:
      • 20 on January 1
      • 18 on February 1
    • CMA CGM is set to become the first major carrier to apply a new surcharge on shipments transiting the Panama Canal.
  • Trans-Pacific Eastbound (TPEB):
    • Stable on the East and West Coast, with improving conditions in Houston and Savannah.
    • Savannah: Up to 1 day wait time for vessel berth, dependent on vessel size.
    • New York: No wait expected at Maher Terminals LLC and APM Terminals. Expect up to 3 days at Global Container Terminals Bayonne.
    • LA/LB: Dwell time averaging 3-4 days.
    • Oakland: Import deliveries take up to 5.2 days at TraPac, 4 days at OICT.
    • Tacoma/Seattle: 5 day wait at Tacoma, 4 days at Seattle.
      • Import deliveries: 8 days at HUSKY due to railcar imbalance, 7.5 days at Washington United Terminal, and 1-3 days at T18. Shortage in railcar availability significantly impacting Union Pacific Rail and BNSF Rail.
  • Trans-Pacific Westbound (TPWB):
    • Inland rail ramps continue to see issues with equipment supply as a lack of imports into the Midwest has caused imbalances.  
    • Extensive blank sailing programs by ocean carriers have led to high utilization of some services; however, various alternative services/carriers can be found to minimize delays.  
    • Some trans-shipment ports, such as Busan and Singapore, have been experiencing congestion issues, with occasional cargo delays as long as 10-14 days. 
  • Transatlantic Eastbound (TAEB):
    • Most carriers have come out with their European Union Emission Trading System (ETS) charges, effective January 1, 2024.  
    • Market demand has declined significantly on the TAWB trade lane, leading to substantial overcapacity on the TAEB service ex U.S. East Coast to Europe. 
    • U.S. West Coast services continue to see stronger utilization compared to U.S. East/Gulf Coast services, largely due to limited carrier options. 

  • U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services: October 2023
    • October 2023: -$64.3B
    • September 2023: -$61.2B
      • The U.S. monthly international trade deficit increased in October 2023 according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The deficit increased from $61.2B in September (revised) to $64.3B in October as exports decreased and imports increased.
      • The goods deficit increased +$3.5B in October to $89.8B.
      • The services surplus increased +0.4B in October to $25.5B.


  • November 2023: U.S. container import volumes decreased 9% from October 2023 to 2,099,408 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Compared to November 2022, TEU volume was higher by 7.4%, and up 10.4% from pre-pandemic November 2019. The growth in import volume over the first eleven months of 2023 is within 4% of the same period in 2019.
  • Global Schedule Reliability remained unchanged MoM from October at 64.4%.

Future Lookouts

  • Weekly analysis: December 8, 2023
    • Across major East-West head haul trades – Transpacific, Transatlantic and Asia-North Europe & Med:
      • 66 cancelled sailings have been announced between week 50 (December 11-17) and week 02 (January 8-14), out of a total of 650 scheduled sailings, representing a 10% cancellation rate.
      • During this period, 38% of blank sailings will occur on the Trans-Pacific Eastbound, 38% on the Transatlantic Westbound, and 24% on Asia-North Europe and Med.