Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to decline year-over-year for the next few months, but the first half of the year should still amount to a 4.5 percent increase compared with the same period last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are carefully managing their inventories, but still need to stock up on seasonal goods for spring and summer,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “Comparisons with last year are difficult because of the surge of cargo after problems at West Coast ports ended, but we think consumers will continue to increase their spending this year and retailers will be ready.”
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in December. With most holiday merchandise already in the country, volume was down 3.4 percent from November and 0.8 percent from the year before. That brought 2015 volume to 18.2 million TEU, up 5.3 percent from 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
January was up an estimated 18.3 percent over 2015 at 1.46 million TEU, but the percentage was skewed unusually high due to weak volume seen last year just before agreement on a contract with West Coast dockworkers ended months of congestion. February is forecast at 1.39 million TEU, up 16.2 percent, also skewed by the congestion. March is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, down 22.4 percent from high levels seen when a flood of backlogged cargo followed the contract agreement.
Patterns are expected to return closer to normal in April, which is forecast at 1.49 million TEU, down 1.2 percent from last year. May is forecast at 1.57 million TEU, a 2.6 percent decline, and June at 1.55 million TEU, a 1.2 percent falloff. The first half of 2016 is expected to reach 8.8 million TEU, up 4.5 percent over the same period last year.
Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey; Hampton Roads, Va.; Charleston,, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Port Everglades, Fla., and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.