Import cargo volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to increase 8.3 percent this month over the same time last year as consumers begin their holiday shopping, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
The cargo report comes as NRF is forecasting a 3.7 percent increase in holiday sales this year over 2014. Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.5 percent from August but up 2.2 percent from a year ago.
October was estimated at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.5 percent from 2014. November is forecast at 1.51 million TEU, up 8.3 percent, and December at 1.44 million TEU, up 0.4 percent.
Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.35 million TEU, up 6.1 percent from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5 percent over the same period last year.
“Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations. Retailers had instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.”
January 2016 is forecast at 1.46 million TEU, up 18.5 percent from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed in February 2015 on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute. February 2016 is forecast at 1.41 million TEU, up 17.9 percent, also skewed by the labor dispute. March is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, down 21.9 percent from a year ago because of large volumes seen after the contract agreement.
Global Port Tracker covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.