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Ocean cargo/Global logistics: Port Tracker report calls for steady TEU gains in the coming months


Photo by Dick Muijs, courtesy of Maersk.

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 14, 2010

The call for increased throughput at United States retail container ports continues, according to the June edition of the Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

The report is calling for 15 percent volume growth in June and double-digit increases in the following months, due to gradual economic improvement. Retail container volumes saw declining volumes for 28 months through November 2009.

But since that time, the losses stemmed somewhat with sequential gains in December and January, followed by a decline in February. March volumes—came in at 1.07 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which was up 7 percent from February’s 1.01 million TEU and 12 percent year-over-year. And April volumes at 1.15 million TEU—the month in which the most recent data is available—were up 7 percent from March and 16 percent year-over-year. Annual volumes have been up for 5 consecutive months, according to the Port Tracker report.

The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah.

Improving volumes are reflective of the continuing demand for import container space, which is causing carriers to bring back services as well as increase the size of ships, which should improve supply chain management operations, according to Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates.

We have not [significantly] increased our forecast despite the strength of TEU growth as a whole.

“The first half of this year has been—and will be—relatively strong,” said Hackett. “But we have not [significantly] increased our forecast despite the strength of TEU growth as a whole. The second half of the year is forecasted to be slightly weaker in terms of growth rates. This is not negative growth; it just won’t be as strong as the first half.”

Hackett added that year-over-year comparisons will likely tighten up as well, with Port Tracker reporting that the West Coast and East Coast are slated to grow 13.5 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively through the rest of the year. These estimates represent a bit of a “pull back” in the second half of the year, according to Hackett.

Going forward, the Port Tracker Report is anticipating year-over-year increases in the coming months. May is estimated at 1.16 million TEU, a 12 percent increase. June is calling for 1.16 million TEU, a 15 percent annual hike. July is predicted to hit 1.23 million TEU, an 11 percent annual bump. August is calling for 1.27 million TEU, a 10 percent annual gain, and September is projected to hit 1.31 million TEU, a 15 percent gain. And October, traditionally the busiest month of the year, is pegged at 1.34 million TEU, a 12 percent gain.

“Cargo import numbers are up but retailers are looking closely at other economic indicators to make sure they are sourcing the appropriate amount of merchandise based on consumer demand,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “Job creation remains a key factor that’s going to affect consumer spending and retail sales.”

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).

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