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Container export dwell time at Chinese ports falls 62%

Article-Container export dwell time at Chinese ports falls 62%

Port of LA Ever Chivalry at Port of LA at sunset
Dwell times for export containers at China's ports have fallen to under five days while import dwell times have risen in recent weeks.

According to data from FourKites, ocean dwell times – the difference between gate times and vessel departure/arrival times – fell to 4.8 days for China’s exports, a figure which has held steady since March. Import dwell times have been slowly rising since the start of March, reaching 5.2 days.

FourKites said it tracked a 44% decline in the volume of shipments to the US from China between April 2022 and April 2023, along with falling transit times.

Using a 60-day rolling average, days in transit for ocean shipments from China to the US was 35.6 days for April, falling from a peak of 55.4 days in March 2022. The trend of falling transit times may soon hit headwinds though, as average transit speeds reached a low in March 2023 and have risen sharply since, likely reflecting reduced sailing speeds to manage capacity.

Glenn Koepke, GM of Network Collaboration at FourKites, said: “As the global economy has softened, ocean capacity is plentiful, though there is still significant activity in global supply chains. Shippers are weighing their options and determining what their inbound networks need to look like, including where global supply should come from.

“China will always be a dominant player in global trade – however, we have seen many shippers look to Southeast Asia, India, and LATAM as alternatives while still keeping Chinese suppliers for the local market. Shippers, forwarders and BCOs know that we are one event away from chaos, so while supply chains are seeing easing demand and logistics professionals are relieved to have a slight mental break, volume will pick back up as we head into peak season of Q3 and Q4.

Koepke expects global container volumes will rise in the third and fourth quarter, but lower than seen in 2022 “which should equate to an easing of delays and available capacity heading into peak trade seasons.”

Broader trends include container lines cutting capacity and cancelling sailings to maintain profitability, and the huge potential trade changes should China take action in the war in Ukraine.

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