September 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
    • As of September 12, the daily transit capacity of the Panama Canal remained at 32 ocean vessels per day, and 116 vessels were waiting to pass in Panama, down from 160+ in early August.
    • The maximum wait time was 14 days, down from 21 days last month according to official data.  The Panama Canal authority has reported these restrictions could remain for the next 10-12 months.
    • The East and West Coasts are both stable.
    • U.S. East Coast ports: 0-1 days overall.
    • Savannah: Wait time for vessel berth at the terminal is up to 4 days, depending on the vessel size. 
    • New York: No wait time expected for berth at Global Container Terminals Bayonne, APM Terminals and Maher Terminals LLC.
    • Port of Los Angeles: Dwell times for local import cargo is 3.3 days, on-dock rail dwell is 3.0 days, and import units on the street average at 4.5 / 6.1 days for 20 ft and 40+ ft containers, respectively.
    • Oakland Int’l Container Terminal (OICT): Average wait time of up to 2 days; average import deliveries up to 4 days.
    • TraPac: Average wait time of 3 days; average import deliveries can take up to 5 days.
    • Tacoma: Wait time of up to 2 days.
    • Seattle: Wait time of 3 days.
    • Vancouver: Average dwell at Centerm and Deltaport is 6-7 days. Vanterm fluid at 1.8 days dwell.
    • No change from previous months; capacity is readily available as space continues to outstrip demand.
    • Carriers are still actively pursuing freight opportunities to bolster utilizations.
    • Minimal impact has been seen on U.S. exports due to ongoing Panama Canal draft restrictions.
    • Dry equipment supply remains mostly robust at both port and IPI locations, with chassis availability remaining limited at some locations. 
    • Overall demand continues to be soft as carriers continue to hunt for freight.
    • U.S. West Coast services continue to outperform services ex U.S. East and Gulf coasts on a utilization basis.
    • Chassis availability is still an issue at some inland locations; however, dry equipment should be readily available throughout.
  • US International Trade in Goods and Services, June 2023
    • July 2023: -$65.0B
    • June 2023: -$63.7B

The U.S. monthly international trade deficit increased in July 2023 according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. As imports increased more than exports, the deficit increased from $63.7B in June (revised) to $65.0B in July. The goods deficit increased $2.0B in July to $90.0B. The services surplus increased $0.7B in June to $25.0B.


  • Instability with cargo demand and ship capacity will continue into Q1 2024 as international trade continues attempting to stabilize post-pandemic.
  • Container shipping spot rates in the trans-Pacific trade started to rise in late June and remain near their highs for 2023. The question is, how much of this rate gain is driven by peak season demand, and how much by shipping lines intentionally constraining capacity?
  • August 2023 U.S. container import volumes increased 0.4% from July 2023 to 2,196,268 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) (see image below). Versus August 2022, TEU volume was lower by 13.2%, but up 2.5% from pre-pandemic August 2019. The growth in import volume over the first eight months of 2023 is within 2.1% of the same period in 2019.
  • Global Schedule Reliability remained unchanged MoM in July at 64.2%.

Future Lookouts

  • Weekly analysis: 15 September 2023
    • Across major East-West head haul trades – Transpacific, Transatlantic and Asia-North Europe & Med:
      • 104 cancelled sailings have been announced between weeks 38 (18 Sep-24 Sep) and week 42 (16 Oct-22 Oct), out of a total of 665 scheduled sailings, representing 16% cancellation rate.
      • During this period, 57% of the blank sailings will occur in the Transpacific Eastbound, 37% on Asia-North Europe and Med, and 7% on the Transatlantic Westbound trade.

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