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Port Tracker report calls for increasing imports in summer months

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 08, 2012

Gradual economic growth patterns continue to be the norm based on data released in the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

But that growth may not show up in May numbers, with the report calling for flat annual growth before annual gains are expected to occur in the summer months through back-to-school season.

The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah.
Port Tracker indicated that the first half of 2012 is expected to total 7.3 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which would represent a 1.9 percent annual gain. The 2011 total was 14.8 million TEU, which was up 0.4 percent 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. According to NRF estimates, retail sales are expected to increase by 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion.

“Consumers are spending despite gas prices and other economic concerns, so retailers are stocking up to meet the demand,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “These numbers show imports growing through the back-to-school season and even into beginning of the shipping cycle for the holiday season. That’s a sign that retailers are expecting a good year.”

In March, the most recent month for which data is available, U.S. ports featured in the report handled 1.18 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU), which is up 14.1 percent over February, which is typically the slowest month of the year, and is up 8.5 percent over March 2011.

Port Tracker expects April to hit 1.24 million TEU for a 2 percent annual gain, with May expected to hit 1.28 million TEU, which would be flat. June is expected to be up 4 percent at 1.3 million TEU, and July is projected to see a 1.8 percent gain at 1.35 million TEU. August and September are expected to see 7.2 and 8.7 percent gains at 1.42 million TEU and 1.45 million TEU, respectively.

Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett commented in the report that this most recent set of data shows firm signs of economic recovery and improvement over 2011, which was replete with uncertainty and no meaningful import volume growth.

“The overall economic fundamentals in the U.S. are strong, with steady retail sales growth, strong supply chain management, and a rebound in consumer confidence, coupled with industrial production continuing to grow at a rate that has exceeded economists’ expectations,” Hackett recently told LM.

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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