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Port Tracker ups first half 2011 growth forecast to 7.5 percent

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
March 07, 2011

Following a prediction of 11 percent growth in February, the most recent edition of 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 to be up 11 percent year-over-year in March, too.

The report is also calling for first half 2011 volumes to be up 7.5 percent, ahead of last month’s 6 percent prediction for the first half of 2011.

In January, the most recent month for which data is available, U.S. ports handled 1.2 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU). This is the 14th straight month to show an annual gain after a 28-month stretch of declines that ended in December 2009. January was up 5 percent compared to December and 12 percent compared to January 2010

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

Now that the first half 2011 prediction has been raised, the report is calling for 7.5 million TEU during that period, which would be a 9 percent gain over 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.

While things appear to be trending in the right direction, oil prices have the potential to change things.

“What happens with oil prices is the million dollar question right now,” said Daniel Hackett, a partner at Hackett Associates. “Our concern is that oil prices continue to increase, which will raise gasoline prices and hurt consumer confidence. It will be interesting to see exactly consumers are being impacted when the next consumer confidence index is released, but we are still forecasting 8-to-10 percent growth for West Coast port volume growth and 6-to-7 percent growth for the East Coast.”

On the capacity side, Hackett said that there is a sense there could be excess ocean capacity as carriers will redistribute vessels, with the likelihood that there will be a shortfall of capacity unlikely.

The Port Tracker report is calling for February to come in at 1.12 million TEU for a 12 percent annual gain. March is projected to also reach 1.19 million TEU for an 11 percent annual increase, and April is pegged at 1.24 million TEU for a 9 percent gain. May is expected to hit 1.32 million TEU for a 5 percent increase, and June at 1.39 million TEU for a 5 percent gain. July is expected to be up 5 percent at 1.45 million TEU.

“These numbers show solid increases over last year and are evidence that our nation’s economic recovery is continuing to build momentum,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “Increases in imports are a clear sign that retailers expect sales to continue to climb in the next several months.”

For related stories, please click here.

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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