MINNEAPOLIS -- A total of over 17.6 million TEUs (twenty-foot-containers) were imported in 2012, roughly 200,000 more containers than 2011, according to a study done by Zepol Corp.

This translates to an import increase of 1.2% in 2012.

Slow and steady growth seems to be the consistent pattern for the year as import volume still has not returned to 2007 or 2008 levels. There was a large spike from 2009 to 2010 and then a plateau-like trend for the past three years, although 2012 was an especially unique year for U.S. imports, according to Zepol.

“In the past 12 months there have been strikes at the ports, hurricanes, and shifts in manufacturing. Not to mention that in a post-recession economy, U.S. companies are running their businesses much more conservatively,” says U.S. trade expert and CEO of Zepol Paul Rasmussen, “It’s no wonder that 2012 imports were less than dramatic and certainly not back to the massive consumption seen in 2007.”

In terms of which countries saw largest changes in U.S. imports, the breakdown for last year was as follows:

  • Asia –  0.2.% increase
  • Europe – 6.4% increase
  • China (leading exported to U.S.) -- .4% decrease
  • South Korea ( second largest exporting country) --  1.2% increase
  • Japan – 2.2% increase
  • Germany – 8.7% increase

The Top U.S. Ports

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest ports in the country and both have posted slight decreases from 2011 by 0.7% and 2.3%. On the other hand, the Port of Newark/New York, the nation’s third largest port, increased in 2012 by 1.6%. Notable increases in traffic were also seen from the Port of Norfolk, Virginia by 10.3% and the Port of Charleston, South Carolina by 7.4%.

Which Carriers Brought in the Most Goods?

As for the ships that carry all these goods to the United States, Maersk Line was the top carrier again for 2012 and increased in TEUs from 2011 by 7.9%. Mediterranean Shipping Company was the second largest carrier in 2012 and rose a slight 0.6% from 2011. APL Co. ranked third and had a solid increase in TEU imports by 5.1%.