Port Tracker report lowers 2013 forecast but says growth is still in the cards

Even with the government shutdown and a downwardly revised annual forecast, activity at United States-based retail container ports continued on a growth path and expected to continue that way through the end of the year, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates.

By ·

Even with the government shutdown and a downwardly revised annual forecast, activity at United States-based retail container ports continued on a growth path and expected to continue that way through the end of the year, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy 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, 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.

October, which is commonly viewed as the busiest month of the year, was estimated to come in at 1.43 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which would be flat compared to September and up 6.5 percent annually. Even though it is calling for annual growth, this forecast is down compared to the 9.1 percent growth rate that the report called for a month ago. And the report said it expects 2013 holiday sales to grow 3.9 percent annually at $602.1 million, with the projected 4.35 million cargo containers handled from August through September, when the majority of holiday merchandise is imported into the U.S., is expected to be up 4.3 percent annually and also represent 26.8 percent of all U.S.-based retail imports for the year.

“Retailers place their orders for merchandise months ahead of time, so cargo arriving at the ports in October and for most of the rest of the year was ordered long before anybody ever heard of a shutdown,” Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “The question at this point isn’t how much merchandise arrived but how much consumers bought, and how they are going to react as economic talks continue in Washington. Lawmakers need to take steps that build confidence, not continue the uncertainty.”

The 2013 forecast is now at 16.2 million TEU, which is down from 16.3 million TEU last month. This represents a 2.3 percent increase over 2012’s 15.8 million TEU, with the first half of 2013 at 7.8 million TEU up 1.2 percent compared to the first half of 2012.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said that this mild annual increase reduction is due in part to the federal government shutdown in October and a fairly high inventory-to-sales ratio. He added that U.S. GDP forecasts are not expected to be hindered by the shutdown, with growth in the first half of 2014 expected to be decent.

“Peak Season this year was less than it could have been, due to high inventory levels,” Hackett told LM. “And by October the volumes are somewhat down as most of the imports for holiday merchandise have already come through so there is a bit of a slowing down at the moment.”

As for the high inventory-to-sales ratio, Hackett explained it is a byproduct of retailers buying merchandise early, coupled with some consumer hesitancy.

Along with October expected to be up 6.5 percent annually at 1.43 million TEU, Port Tracker is calling for November to be up 3.3 percent at 1.33 million TEU and December to be up 1.8 percent at 1.31 million TEU. January, February, and March are pegged at 1.35 million TEU, 1.18 million TEU, and 1.33 million TEU, respectively, for a gain of 3 percent, a decrease of 7.5 percent, and an increase of 17 percent.


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

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!

Article Topics

Ocean Cargo · Port Tracker · TEU · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Supply Chain Visibility: Illuminating the Path to Responsive, Agile Operations
Supply chain visibility is not an end, but a tool. It is the means to achieving true supply chain effectiveness, agility and ultimately, corporate profitability.
Download Today!
From the December 2017 Logistics Management Magazine Issue
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued expansion of domestic and international markets. Economists, meanwhile, say shippers can expect revenue growth in transport verticals to remain in the 3%-plus range.
2018 Customs & Regulations Update:10 observations on the “digital trade transformation”
Moore on Pricing: Freight settlement and your TMS
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2018 Rate Forecast
Join our panel of top oil and transportation analysts for an exclusive look at where rates are headed and the issues driving those rate increases over the coming year.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2018 Rate Outlook: Economic Expansion, Pushing Rates Skyward
Trade and transport analysts see rates rising across all modes in accordance with continued...
Building the NextGen Supply Chain: Keeping pace with the digital economy
Peerless Media’s 2017 Virtual Summit shows how creating a data-rich ecosystem can eliminate...

2017 NASSTRAC Shipper of the Year: Mallinckrodt; Mastering and managing complexity
An inside look at how a large pharmaceutical firm transformed its vendor and supplier relationships...
2017 Alliance Awards: Recognizing outstanding supply chain partnerships
In an era where effective supply chain collaboration is both highly valued and elusive, Logistics...