News Release

US containerized imports from Asia show no slowdown as container squeeze continues

US containerized imports from Asia show no slowdown as container squeeze continues

February 18, 2021

London (18 February 2021) – US containerized imports from Asia are up 14 percent in January 2021 compared to a year ago, indicating no slowdown in the volume surge, the container squeeze and unprecedented shipping rates, according to new IHS Markit data.

Containerized imports from Asia, a key barometer of retailers’ expectations for US consumer demand, hit 1.59 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in January 2021, only a slight dip from 1.6 million in TEU imports in December 2020. Reflecting the shift towards physical goods during the pandemic in the six months to January 2021, US containerized imports from Asia are up 19 percent, at 9.7 million TEU compared to the same period a year ago.

“The most recent Asian import reading, retailers’ forward looking expectations and discussions with container lines and transportation intermediaries all suggest that the unprecedented import pressures on the US-to-Asia containerized supply chain aren’t letting up anytime soon.” – Mark Szakonyi, Executive Editor of The Journal of Commerce and

The unrelenting volume pressures, sparking historic levels of US port congestion at gateways like Los Angeles-Long Beach, resulting in shipment delays and sending shipping rates rocketing, is set to continue well into 2021, as the industry gathers for TPM21the world’s largest container shipping conference. How to effectively respond to challenges, such as an historic backup of vessels at anchor outside major container gateways such as Los Angeles-Long Beach, will be major topic of discussions at the virtual TPM21 running from 25 February to 3 March.

The delays, anticipated to last well into 2021, have been caused by the pandemic-driven surge in containerized shipments of PPE and home improvement goods, tight vessel capacity due to a much-reduced container ship orderbook and a slowing of the normal global circulation of container equipment which has reduced capacity throughout the system.

“We arrive at TPM21 at an historic juncture for the container industry and the retailers, manufacturers and other major corporates that rely on it. With COVID just the latest in a series of external shocks over the past decade ranging from cyber-attacks, trade wars and longshore labour disruption, shippers are looking at sharply elevated risk in the container supply chain and higher costs ahead.” – Peter Tirschwell, Vice President of the Maritime & Trade division of IHS Markit and Chairman of TPM

The virtual TPM21 includes an in-depth program of 70 sessions and 165 speakers, as well as virtual networking opportunities, held over a full week from 25 February to 3 March 2021. The program features the CEOs of four container lines together with dozens of senior executives representing shippers, forwarders, ports, railroads, truckers and technology firms holding discussions around the theme “Reimagining the Future”.

TPM is organized by The Journal of Commerce, part of the Maritime & Trade Division of IHS Markit. Program details can be found here.

About IHS Markit  (

IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

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