The monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and consulting firm Hackett Associates showed the volume of import shipments rose 9.1 percent in April, the latest month for which data is available, compared with March. But that was down 4.6 percent from April 2015, and May and June are expected to post declines.
Ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.44 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
“Our port models are projecting weak imports in volume terms, not to be confused with the dollar value,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “Inventories remain very high, pointing to an overstocked situation that will depress the volume of imports in the coming peak season. Unless inventories drop through further increased consumer spending, import growth will remain sparse.”
May is forecast 1.54 million TEU, down 4.2 percent from the same month last year. June is forecast to also be 1.54 million TEU, down 1.9 percent from last year; July at 1.62 million TEU, up 0.2 percent; August at 1.63 million TEU, down 3 percent; September at 1.57 million TEU, down 3.5 percent, and October at 1.61 million TEU, up 3.4 percent.
The first half of 2016 is expected to total 8.9 million TEU, up 0.3 percent from the same period in 2015. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4 percent from 2014.
The first-half forecast was slightly down from the March report, which showed a 1.4 percent increase to 9 million TEU compared with the same period in 2015.
“The unusual patterns seen last year in the aftermath of the West Coast ports slowdown are continuing to make valid year-over-year comparisons difficult,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers are balancing imports with existing inventories but consumers can expect to see plenty of merchandise on the shelves for both back-to-school and the holidays.”
Global Port Tracker 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, Fla., on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.