Zepol reports February imports hit highest level in four years
March 18, 2013 - LM Editorial
Data recently released by Zepol, a trade intelligence firm, indicated the United States-bound containerized vessel imports were mixed for the month of February, with imports down sequentially and up annually.
Acording to Zepol, imports fell 5 percent from January and were up 15 percent compared to February 2012. The firm reported that February’s container count came in at more 1.4 million TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), with shipments above 720,000, hitting levels for February imports that have not reached this level since 2009.
Zepol said this also was the case with January’s import numbers, stating that import levels appear to be closely resembling those seen before the recession.
“Total imports for January and February of 2013 are almost 7% higher compared to the same time last year,” said U.S. trade expert and CEO of Zepol Paul Rasmussen in a statement. “It will be interesting to see if this holds true for the remainder of quarter one as the data for March comes in. We may be looking at a stronger year for imports than expected.”
This data matches up well with recently released February data from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, whom both posted strong February import data.
POLB imports, which are primarily comprised of consumer goods, were up 45.8 percent annually at 279,144 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), and exports. And at POLA February imports at 318,547 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) TEU—increased 25.23 percent.
Officials at both ports cited the timing of the Lunar New Year and an improving housing market as two of the main driver for strong February data.
The recent edition of the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates noted that said 1.33 million TEU were handled in January for the ports followed by Port Tracker, marking a 0.8 percent gain from December 2012 and a 3.7 percent gain compared to January 2012. This is the most recent month for which data is available. 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 the recent addition of Fort Lauerdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades.
The report is calling for the first six months of 2013 to hit 8 million TEU, which would be a 4.3 percent annual improvement. For all of 2012, the total TEU count was 15.8 million TEU, marking a 2.9 percent annual bump.
“GDP is really barely holding on there, but at least it is positive and sustainable,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett told LM. “Unemployment is showing some gradual improvement, too. It is all positive but not outstanding. There will be some growth over the next six-to-eight months, but it will not be dramatic. It is better than it is in Europe, where things continue to decline.”
Year-to-date, Hackett said things appear to be meeting expectations, aided by the fact that economic growth in the first half of 2012 was weak.
Zepol pointed out that the February 2012 to February 2013 “import surge” mostly was due to the exports from Asia and Europe, which had annual increases of 20.8 percent and 8 percent, respectively, with China up 34 percent. And it also observed that imports was Germany and the Netherlands were up 18.3 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively, from January to February.
Regarding carrier activity, Zepol said that Maersk Line TEU volume increased 7.7 percent from January to February and was up 9 percent annually, with APL and MSC rounding out the top three, falling 14 and 1 percent respectively from January to February and up 13.8 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively, annually.
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