This year, U.S. ports are ready for the holiday rush.
Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.3 percent this month over the same time last year as consumers begin their holiday shopping, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Conditions aren’t perfect, but the ports are running reasonably well,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the NRF. “That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations. Retailers had 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 cargo 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.
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, or TEUs, in September, the latest month for numbers are available. That was down 3.5 percent from August, but up 2.2 percent from a year ago. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
October shipments are estimated at 1.63 million TEU, a 4.5 percent rise from 2014. November port volume is forecast to be up 8.3 percent to 1.51 million TEU and December shipments are forecast to rise 0.4 percent to 1.44 million TEU.
Those numbers would bring 2015 port volume to 18.35 million TEU, a 6.1 percent increase from last year.
January volume 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 on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute. February’s port forecast is 1.41 million TEU, up 17.9 percent, also skewed by the labor dispute, while March volume is predicted at 1.35 million TEU, down 21.9 percent from a year ago due to large volume seen after the contract agreement.
Global Port Tracker 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 and Miami, Fla., on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.