NRF: Imports at Top US Container Ports Set a 2nd Record High

Imports set a second all-time monthly record high at US major retailer container ports this summer and are continuing at unusually high levels this month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report published by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“When imports break records two months in a row, it’s hard to see that as anything other than a good sign about what retailers expect in consumer demand. Consumers are buying more, and everybody from dockworkers to truck drivers is trying to keep up,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.

Ports covered by the report handled 1.8 million TEU in August. The volume was the highest recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the previous record of 1.78 million TEU set just one month earlier in July. The record before that had been 1.73 million TEU in March 2015. In addition, August was up 1.4 percent over July and 5.6 percent over August 2016.

September was estimated at 1.65 million TEU, up 3.7 percent from last year, and October is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 2.8 percent. While not a record, the October number would be one of only six times in the report’s history that any month has hit 1.7 million TEU or higher, according to NRF.

November is forecast at 1.62 million TEU, down 1.7 percent from last year, and December at 1.59 million TEU, up 1.3 percent.

As informed, growth has slowed from the first half of the year but 2017 is expected to total 19.8 million TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 5.4 percent. That compares with 2016’s 3.1 percent increase over 2015. The first half of 2017 totaled 9.7 million TEU, up 7.5 percent from the same period in 2016.

January 2018 is forecast at 1.64 million TEU, down 2 percent from January 2017, and February is forecast at 1.58 million TEU, up 10 percent from the same month in 2017.

“The volume of containers imported through August continues to grow and we expect this to continue through October before a slack period arrives as the holiday season inventory buildup comes to an end. We do expect growth in imports to slacken off in the coming year, but it will still remain positive,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, noted.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the US 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.

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