Imports at Top US Container Ports End 2017 with 7 Pct Growth

Imports at the US major container ports grew 7 percent during 2017 over 2016 as retail sales continued to increase and the industry wrapped up the year with a strong holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers imported more merchandise than ever to meet demand for quality products at affordable prices, and growth is expected to continue in the year ahead,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.

As informed, ports covered by the report handled 1.74 million TEU in November. With most holiday merchandise already in the country by that point, the number was down 1.7 percent from October but up 5.8 percent year-over-year.

December was estimated at 1.6 million TEU, up 2.6 percent year-over-year. The total for 2017 is expected to come to 20.1 million TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 7 percent. That would be more than double 2016’s 3.1 percent increase over 2015. The year set an all-time monthly record of 1.8 million TEU in August, and included five of only seven months on record when imports have hit 1.7 million TEU or higher, according to NRF.

“On a percentage basis, 2017 was one of the strongest increases we’ve seen since the end of the Great Recession,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, said.

“That’s no minor achievement at a time when many are trying to talk down the economy. The rate is expected to slow down some, but with 2017’s performance and continuing high consumer confidence, our models show continued growth in the coming year,” Hackett added.

NRF further said that January is forecast at 1.68 million TEU, up 0.2 percent from January 2017, February at 1.62 million TEU, up 12.6 percent from last year and March at 1.5 million TEU, down 2.3 percent. Additionally, April is forecast at 1.66 million TEU, up 3.3 percent from the corresponding month a year earlier, and May at 1.73 million TEU, up 0.4 percent.

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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