Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


Despite government shutdown, Port Tracker report calls for strong October import activity

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 08, 2013

A moderate economic recovery and a United States federal government shutdown do not appear to be enough to prevent holiday season-related import activity from posting an annual gain, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates.

The report is calling for volumes in October (which is typically the busiest month of the year) at United States-based retail container ports to increase 9.1 percent annually in October, which the report reflects goods ordered months in advance of the government shutdown, with retailers gearing up for holiday shopping activity.

The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades. Authors of the report explained that Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.

“With the holidays nearly here, retailers are making sure their shelves are well-stocked,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “Cargo is continuing to move through the ports but the government shutdown has left some agencies short-handed, so NRF will monitor the situation closely as the holidays approach.”

Even with Customs and Border Protection placing 6,000 staffers on furlough due to the shutdown, CBP maintains that the subsequent import on trade activity will be minimal with ports remaining open and inspectors on the job and processing cargo. Conversely, though, the report said there is concern by retailers over how some government agencies that clear cargo at ports are not staffed to levels CBP is.

The Port Tracker report said 1.48 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) were handled in August (the most recent month for which full data is available) for the ports followed by Port Tracker, which represents a 2.5 percent increase compared to July and a 3.8 percent gain compared to August 2012.

The report said the 2013 forecast is at 16.3 million for a 2.7 percent gain over 2012’s 15.8 million TEU, with the first six months of the year at 7.8 million TEU for a 1.2 percent increase.

The Port Tracker report estimates September volumes to be at 1.47 million TEU for a 4.9 percent annual decrease, and it is calling for October to be up 9.1 percent at 1.46 million TEU.  November and December are expected to be at 1.33 million TEU and 1.31 million TEU for 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent increases, respectively.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett told LM in an interview that to date the government shutdown has negatively impacted the stock market more so than trade so far and has not been a drag on its 2013 forecast of 2.7 percent annual growth, which is in line with what it has been forecasting for more than three months.

“Our forecast has basically ignored what is happening in Washington,” he said. But if the government dysfunction in Congress and the White House continues for more than a couple of weeks, that is another issue, though.”

Hackett commented that ocean container traffic growth remains slow, due to reduced demand for shipping capacity that that has led to ocean carriers reducing the number of vessels on the water and relying on other tactics like using larger ships and leveraging alliances to better manage capacity as the supply and demand balance dictates pricing.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in July headed up 1.3 percent on the heels of a 0.8 percent increase in June. The ATA’s not seasonally-adjusted (NSA) index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by fleets before any seasonal adjustment, was 133.3 in July, which outpaced June’s 132.3 by 0.8 percent, and was up 2.8 percent annually.

Volumes for the month of July at the Port of Long Beach (POLB) and the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) were mixed, according to data recently issued by the ports. Unlike May and June, which saw higher than usual seasonal volumes, due to the West Coast port labor situation, July was down as retailers had completed filling inventories for back-to-school shopping.

With a 0.8 cent decrease, this week’s average price per gallon is $3.835 and stands as the lowest price since hitting $3.844 the week of November 25, 2013.

LTL carriers are rapidly investing in expensive, on-dock, three-dimensional size measurement capturing machinery, and they are hoping one day of being able to more accurately charge shippers rates based on the actual dimensions of their shipments, rather than the traditional weight-and-distance-based formula that has been in effect since the 1930s or even earlier.

The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) recently reported that its Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) dipped 0.9 percent from May to June.

Article Topics

News · Port Tracker · NRF · Hackett Associates · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA