October 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 – the following rules apply effective November 1, 2023:
    • A new booking condition, known as Booking Condition 5, will be implemented 11/01/23. While this condition is in effect, Panamax plus vessel will not be allowed to transit.
      • Daily capacity will be adjusted to 31 vessels per day, instead of the currently reduced capacity of 32 vessels per day.
      • Once new Period 1 is in effect, no reservations will be allowed for dates between 365 and 91 days prior to the booking date. No substitutions, swaps, or changes in dates will be allowed for dates where the period is unavailable.
        • Slots that are cancelled or released for dates that are unavailable (between 365 and 91 days prior to the booking date) will be blocked and become available once the new Period 1 opens 90 days prior to the booking date.
        • The Special Booking Period (730 to 366 days) will remain available to passenger vessels only.
        • The slots on Booking Period 3 will be offered through AUCTIONS ONLY, seven days prior to the booking date (Panamax and Neopanamax vessels).
        • The priority given to full containers during Booking Periods 2 & 3 announced in Advisory to Shipping A-35-2023 will be suspended effective November 1, 2023.
    • The East and West Coasts are both stable.
    • Overall U.S. East Coast ports: 0-2 days.
    • Savannah: Wait time for vessel berth at the terminal is up to 3.5 days, depending on vessel size.
    • Tacoma and Seattle: Wait time of up to 3 days.
    • Vancouver: Average dwell is 6-7 days.
    • Port of Los Angeles: Dwell times for local import cargo is 7.5 days.
    • Carriers have stepped up their pursuit of any volume opportunities as market demand continues to be soft. 
    • The trade will see some blank sailings as a result of the Golden Week holiday. 
    • Some IPI locations may see a lower availability of equipment as import volumes decline.
    • Capacity remains widely available as supply outweighs demand. 
    • U.S west coast services continue to perform better in terms of utilization compared to U.S. east and gulf coast services.  
    • Equipment may be short at some IPI locations as import volumes continue to be depressed. 
  • U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services: August 2023
    • August 2023: -$58.3B
    • July 2023: -$64.7B

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed more than expected in August as exports increased solidly, likely positioning trade to support economic growth in the third quarter. The trade deficit contracted 9.9% to $58.3B, the lowest level since September 2020, according to the Commerce Department. Data for July was revised to show the trade gap rising to $64.7B instead of $65B as previously reported.

  • Exports of goods and services increased 1.6% to $256B. Goods exports shot up 1.8% to $171.5B, with shipments of capital goods hitting a record high. Exports of foods, feeds and beverages were the lowest since August 2020. Exports of services were the highest on record at $84.5B
  • Imports of goods and services fell 0.7% to $314.3B. Goods imports dropped 0.9% to $256B, potentially flagging softening domestic demand amid higher borrowing costs.


  • September 2023: U.S. container import volumes in September increased by 0.3% compared to August, reaching a total of 2,203,452 TEUs.
    • Compared to September 2022, TEU volume is slightly lower by 0.6%, but increased by 8% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The growth in import volume over the first nine months of 2023 is now within 2.5% of the same period in 2019.
  • Global Schedule Reliability declined 0.9 MoM in August at 63.2%.

Future Lookouts

  • Weekly analysis: October 6, 2023
    • Across major East-West head haul trades – Transpacific, Transatlantic and Asia-North Europe & Med:
      • 67 cancelled sailings have been announced between week 41 (October 9-15) and week 45 (November 6-12), out of a total of 660 scheduled sailings, representing 10% cancellation rate.