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WASHINGTON, August 5, 2010 – Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to total 14.5 million containers for 2010, a 15 percent increase over last year’s unusually low numbers as the economy continues its cautious recovery, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“We aren’t back to where we were two years ago and consumers aren’t convinced that the recession is over quite yet, but 2010 is clearly going to finish better than last year,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “In the meantime, retailers are monitoring demand very closely and hoping to see increases in employment and other areas that will boost consumer confidence. Cargo numbers this summer are showing unusually high percentage increases, but that appears to be an indication of shortages in shipping capacity earlier in the year rather than sales expectations.”
U.S. ports handled 1.32 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 4 percent from May and 30 percent from June 2009. It was the seventh month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
July was estimated at 1.38 million TEU, a 25 percent increase over last year. August is forecast at 1.32 million TEU, up 14 percent from last year; September also at 1.32 million TEU, up 16 percent; October at 1.31 million TEU, up 10 percent; November at 1.19 million TEU, up 9 percent; and December at 1.12 million TEU, up 2 percent.
The first half of 2010 was estimated at 6.9 million TEU, up 17 percent from the same period last year. The 14.5 million TEU total forecast for 2010 would be up from 12.7 million TEU in 2009, which was the lowest since the 12.5 million TEU reported in 2003. The 2010 number remains below the 15.2 million TEU seen in 2008.
The large double-digit increases in June and July appear to be the result of backlogs built up due to the lack of shipping capacity earlier in the year after ship owners took vessels out of service during the recession and were slow to return them as the economy began to pick up. With many retailers appearing to bring merchandise in early to avoid any further bottlenecks, July is likely to be the peak shipping month for 2010 rather than the traditional rush of holiday season merchandise in October.
“There are indications that the shipping season may have peaked earlier than normal as the rush to re-stock inventories earlier in the year intersects with a combination of increased shipping capacity, consumer confidence levels not seen since August 2009 and the slowing growth of consumer spending,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “The traditional peak season may be melting away.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalportracker.com.
As the world's largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF's global membership includes retailers of all sizes, formats and channels of distribution as well as chain restaurants and industry partners from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. In the United States, NRF represents the breadth and diversity of an industry with more than 1.6 million American companies that employ nearly 25 million workers and generated 2009 sales of $2.3 trillion. www.nrf.com
Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.