Forecast: Drop at retail ports accelerating
After ending 2008 down 7.9 percent, cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to drop at an even faster pace during the first half of 2009.
The monthly Port Tracker report released Friday by the National Retail Federation and the economic firm IHS Global Insight said volume for the first six months of 2009 is forecast at 6.6 million TEUs, down 11.8 percent from the 7.5 million TEUs seen during the same period in 2008. Port Tracker forecasts only six months into the future, so an estimate of volume for the entire year won’t be available until this summer.
Port Tracker said its final data for 2008 shows volumes at the same ports were 15.2 million TEUs, 7.9 percent less than they handled in 2007 and the lowest total since 2004, when 14 million TEUs moved through the ports.
“2008 was one of the most challenging years retailers have seen, and all indications are that 2009 won’t be any better,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Unfortunately, cargo volume at the ports reflects retailers’ anticipated sales, and NRF expects that sales will get worse before they get better. Retailers are only going to import what they can sell.”
“The combined influence of the recession and the usual winter slowdown will result in extremely weak February port traffic,” IHS Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. “Import container traffic is projected to be weak through June because of the underlying reduced demand during the global recession.”
All U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker — Los 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 — are rated “low” for congestion, the same as last month.