NRF: US Imports on a Steady Rise

Import cargo volume at the United States’ major retail container ports has begun its annual climb toward summer levels but is expected to be largely flat when compared with last year’s record high numbers, according to the National Retail Federation’s latest report.

“Last year was a roller coaster but this year we’re expecting a nice, steady climb right through the summer, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

“We’re finally getting back to normal patterns as cargo builds up toward the back-to-school season and eventually the holiday season. Despite the year-over-year comparisons, these are still strong numbers.”

The projection follows NRF’s estimates that import cargo volume at major US retail container ports would grow toward the summer despite difficult comparisons with last year’s patterns, as 2015 was hit by the dockworkers dispute at the West Coast ports that clogged the ports.

Ports covered by the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by NRF and Hackett Associates handled 1.54 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in February, up 3.7 percent from January and a dramatic 28.9 percent from unusually low figures in February 2015, when a new contract with dockworkers ended a near-shutdown at West Coast ports.

March was estimated at 1.35 million TEU, down 22.1 percent from the flood of traffic seen last year as the new contract released a backlog of cargo.

April is forecast at 1.5 million TEU, down 0.8 percent from last year; May at 1.58 million TEU, down 2.1 percent; June at 1.56 million TEU, down 0.6 percent; July at 1.61 million TEU, down 0.5 percent, and August also at 1.61 million TEU, down 3.9 percent, the report figures show.

The first half of 2016 is expected to total 9 million TEU, up 1.8 percent from the same period in 2015.

Major shipping lines are expected to add new super-large capacity vessels to routes between Asia and the U.S. West Coast which according to Hackett Associates is likely to bring lower shipping rates at the risk of “chaos” in the balance between supply and demand.

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