WASHINGTON — Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports should be at near-peak levels this month even as importers cope with the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Friday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Hanjin should not significantly affect volume for the month since alternative arrangements to unload those containers or shift cargo elsewhere should be dealt with by the time the numbers are tallied,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “But millions of dollars worth of merchandise is in limbo at the moment and retailers are working hard to make sure it ends up on store shelves in time for the holidays.”
Hanjin filed for bankruptcy protection on South Korea last week and some of its ships are waiting outside of U.S. ports awaiting a decision decide whether to protect the line from asset seizures in the U.S. The prospect of freight rate increases looms for importers as a result of Hanjin’s financial problems.
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.63 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, up 3.2 percent from June and 0.7 percent from July 2015. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
August cargo volume was estimated at 1.67 million TEU, down 0.4 percent from last year, and is expected to have been the busiest month of the annual shipping-cycle build-up to the holiday shopping season. September is forecast at 1.62 million TEU, down 0.2 percent from last year; October at 1.63 million TEU, up 5.3 percent from last year; November at 1.53 million TEU, up 3.8 percent, and December at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.6 percent.
Those numbers should bring 2016 to 18.6 million TEU, a 1.8 percent gain from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from 2014. The first half of the year totaled 9 million TEU, a 1.6 percent increase from the same period in 2015.
January 2017 is forecast at 1.53 million TEU, up 2.8 percent from January 2016.
“Despite the apparent slowdown in economic activity being reported around the world, the volume of imports continues to grow slowly, much along the lines that we have been projecting,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett.
Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach; Oakland, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash. on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey; Hampton Roads, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.