Port Tracker calls for nearly 7 percent decline in February shipments

February import cargo volume is expected to be down 6.8 percent on an annual basis, according to the monthly Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

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February import cargo volume is expected to be down 6.8 percent on an annual basis, according to the monthly Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

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

According to the report, total 2011 volume hit 14.8 million TEU (Twenty-foot equivalent) for a 0.4 percent increase over 14.75 million TEU in 2010. Volume in 2010 was up 16 percent compared to a dismal 2009. The 12.7 million TEU shipped in 2009 was the lowest annual tally since 2003.

“With consumer confidence building, retailers are optimistic that the economy is recovering but are continuing to be cautious with their inventory levels,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “Merchants want to be sure that growth will be sustained and that demand will be there to meet supply.”

For December, the most recent month for which data is available, U.S. ports surveyed in the report hit 1.17 million TEU, which was down 6 percent from November, due to the fact that holiday merchandise was already on store shelves, said the report’s authors. But December was up 2 percent annually.

Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates, told LM in a recent interview that 2011 ended up weaker than initially estimated in the first half of the year, even though it ended up positive overall.

“This was driven by a very good growth rate on the East Coast, with the West Coast being slightly negative,” said Hackett. “There was relatively low demand and slow growth for most of the year, with the April through July time period really impacting consumer demand.”

Port Tracker is calling for January to hit 1.17 million TEU, which would be down 3.3 percent from January 2011. And February, long viewed the slowest month of the year, is projected to hit 1.03 million TEU for a 6.8 percent annual decrease.

As previously stated by Port Tracker things are expected to pick up again in March, with the month slated to hit 1.18 million TEU for an 8.6 percent increase, followed by April and May at 1.25 million TEU and 1.28 million TEU, respectively, for an annual gain of 2.4 percent and a decline of 0.7 percent, respectively.

Hackett said in the report that current statistics indicate the economy will continue to improve in 2012, adding that it is likely that wholesalers and retailers will be able to manage inventories as well as they did in 2011. 

About the Author

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. Contact Jeff Berman

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