Container ship count in US waters falls by half

New data from IHS Markit evince that calls to US ports are at its lowest level since September 2020. Bad weather, inflation and decelerating consumer demand are to blame.
Photo: Seth Wenig/AP/Ritzau Scanpix
Photo: Seth Wenig/AP/Ritzau Scanpix
By Kevin Varley, Bloomberg News

The number of container ships in US coastal waters has fallen to less than half of the count a year earlier, in the latest ominous sign of slowing global trade.

There were 106 container ships both in port and off the coastline late Sunday, compared with 218 at this time last year, a 51 percent drop according to vessel data analyzed by Bloomberg. 

Data from IHS Markit showed that the weekly count of port calls in US waters through March 4 had slowed to 1,105 from 1,906 the year prior. That’s the lowest level since mid-September 2020.

Bad weather may be partly to blame. More broadly, a slowdown in global consumer demand — driven by weaker economic growth and higher inflation — is translating into fewer vessels needed for shipping goods from Asia’s top manufacturing hubs to the US and Europe. 

Ships in the port of New York/New Jersey, currently facing an incoming winter storm, fell to just three as of late Sunday, compared with a two-year median of 10. There were 15 vessels in the West Coast shipping hub of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which normally sees a median of 25 ships.

Meanwhile, idled container vessel capacity in February was near the highest level since August 2020, according to maritime consultant Drewry.

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