Patterns in Shipment Delays of Imports into the USA

This is the second in a multi-part series in which we attempt to unearth dynamics of the shipping industry, by analyzing publicly available import shipment data in the United States.

Vessel delays can cause a variety of issues downstream. Truck dispatch schedules may be disrupted, warehouse allocation may go out of the window, labor planning will have to be reworked, future shipments may be affected, and of course, customers will be let down.

In this article, we’ll look at delayed shipments, and try to unearth congestion points, tricky routes and delayed shipping lines. We’ll also try to track how these delays have varied over the years.

The answers to these questions come from an analysis of publicly available import data from the United States Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automated Manifest System. This data spans approximately five years, and covers 180 million data points. Here’s what we found.

Which US ports see the most delays?

Among ports in 2018 that saw at least 10,000 inbound shipments, Charleston recorded the largest average delay of 2.92 days.

Nearly all ports have recorded an increase in delay compared to the 5 year period between 2014 and 2018.

On the whole, the mean delay of shipments in 2018 shot up to 1.97 from the 1.62 days recorded over the period 2014–2018.

Where are delayed shipments most likely to originate?

Shipments from Genova, Bremerhaven, Shanghai and Ningpo were the most delayed in 2018. The latter Chinese ports have seen noticeable delays over the entire period since 2014, possibly because of seasonal dense fogs.

At an aggregate country level though, delay in Chinese shipments is not as stark as delays from European ports, and from India. Mexico, with its geographic proximity to the US, unsurprisingly sees the least delays.

At the route level, here’s how delays played out. Routes from Xiamen and Yantian to California are noticeably least affected by delays.

Which shipping lines were most associated with delays?

Shipments can be delayed for a variety of reasons, from routes and congestion to weather and acts of god. Not all of these are in the control of the shipping line tasked with moving the shipment; nonetheless, it’s worth looking at how these metrics play out in aggregate.

Interestingly, our data reveals that Maersk, one of the largest players in the space, was associated with the least delay amongst all of the big boys.

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This article was originally published on the Semantics3 Blog

Co-founder@Semantics3 | find me at

Co-founder@Semantics3 | find me at