Port Tracker report calls for volume pickup later this summer

By Jeff Berman · June 16, 2011

As was the case last month, the Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates is calling for import cargo volume at major United States-based container ports remain at current levels through July, followed by an increase thereafter in subsequent months.

Port Tracker is calling for first half 2011 volumes to be up 7.2 percent, just ahead of last month’s 7.1 percent projection. This would be 5 percent better than the first half of 2010. In 2010, the report said there was a total of 14.7 million TEU moved—a 16 percent gain over 2009, which was largely achieved due to 2009’s 12.7 million TEU serving as the lowest annual tally since 2003.

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

The most recent month for which data is available in the report is April, coming in at1.22 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) and the 17th straight month to show an annual gain after a 28-month stretch of declines that ended in December 2009.

April also fared better on a sequential basis compared to March’s 1.08 million TEU. The decline in March from February was expected, due to the Chinese New Year occurring in early February, with many shipments loaded ten days-to-two weeks prior to that, making it a stronger February than usual.

“The economy is having an impact on these numbers, with retail sales down, and consumers paying more to eat and drive, which is forcing them to be cautious,” said Ben Hackett, president of Hackett Associates. “The overall tendency is for growth to slow down with increased consumer caution.”

Hackett also explained that the growing U.S. deficit and the need to increase debt limits, coupled with more possible federal budget cuts, are also factoring into TEU growth in the near- and long-term. And issues with exchange rates with a declining dollar, he said, will force import prices to rise and put downward pressure on retail goods.

The Port Tracker report is calling for May to come in at 1.27 million TEU for a 0.33 percent annual gain. June is expected to reach 1.33 million TEU for a 1 percent increase. July is projected to hit 1.39 million TEU for a 0.5 percent decrease. August is expected to hit 1.47 million TEU for a 3 percent increase, and September is pegged at 1.49 million TEU for a 12 percent gain. October is expected to be up 19 percent at 1.54 million TEU.

“With rising gas prices and challenges in the labor and housing markets, consumer spending has slowed and retailers have adjusted their inventory levels accordingly,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “We are confident long-term consumer demand will grow, and that imports will pick up significantly in the fall.”


About the Author

Jeff Berman
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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