Container Volume Up as U.S. Port Conditions Improve
When all the figures are complied, import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.3 percent in November over the same time last year as consumers continue their holiday shopping, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation.
The report comes as NRF is forecasting a 3.7-percent increase in holiday sales this year over 2014. Cargo volume does not directly correlate with sales figures because each container counts the same regardless of the value of its content, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations, it said.
“Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations.”
Retailers, said Gold, “instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.”
The major U.S. ports covered by the report handled 1.62 million TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.5 percent from August but up 2.2 percent from a year ago.
October was estimated at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.5 percent from 2014. November is forecast at 1.51 million TEU, up 8.3 percent, and December at 1.44 million TEU, up 0.4 percent. Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.35 million TEU, up 6.1 percent from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5 percent over the same period last year.
January 2016 is forecast at 1.46 million TEU, up 18.5 percent from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed in February 2015 on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute.
February 2016 is forecast at 1.41 million TEU, up 17.9 percent, also skewed by the labor dispute. March is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, down 21.9 percent from a year ago because of large volumes seen after the contract agreement.
The monthly Global Port Tracker is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates covering activity at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami, and Houston.
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