Dr. Paul Kent is Primary Author of Freight and Supply Chain Chapter of the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2023

January 9, 2024

Monument’s Dr. Paul Kent was the primary author of the Freight and Supply Chain chapter of the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2023. In the 2022 edition, Paul had highlighted a significant development: U.S. East Coast port Asian trade container volumes exceeded U.S. West Coast port Asian trade volumes for the first time. This shift is credited to improvements in the Suez Canal, increased capacity in U.S. East Coast ports for handling larger vessels, and enhanced connectivity with global shipping lines, rendering these ports more competitive than their West Coast counterparts. The 2023 Chapter, posted here, indicates a continuation of this trend, with U.S. East Coast Ports capturing greater market share of the U.S.-Asian trades.

Next year’s data can be intriguing considering the adverse effects of the Panama Canal’s drought conditions leading to reduced vessel transits, and the Israel-Hamas war prompting vessel diversions around the African Cape instead of utilizing the Suez Canal. As reported today in the Journal of Commerce, both Shanghai-New York and Shanghai-Los Angeles container trades are at their highest rates since December 2022. The diversions caused by the Panama Canal constraints and the Israel-Hamas war are likely to contribute to a rise in U.S. West Coast container volumes as shipping lines redirect shipments to U.S. West Coast ports.

One would normally anticipate an increase in freight costs from these diversions, potentially leading to price hikes in retail goods. However, such price increases may be tempered by a flood of new container ships entering the markets, posing a risk of overcapacity in container ships.

The full 2023 Annual Report, which includes data on non-maritime modes and transportation economics, can be found here: Transportation Statistics Annual Report | Bureau of Transportation Statistics (bts.gov)