July may be peak seasonÆs peak
October, with holiday season merchandise being rushed to market, is usually the peak month for container shipping. But the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates say July is likely the peak this year.
Releasing their monthly Global Port Tracker report, NRF and Hackett said large double-digit increases in June and July appear to be the result of backlogs built up due to the lack of shipping capacity earlier in the year, after ship owners took vessels out of service during the recession and were slow to return them as the economy began to pick up.
'There are indications that the shipping season may have peaked earlier than normal as the rush to restock inventories earlier in the year intersects with a combination of increased shipping capacity, consumer confidence levels not seen since August 2009 and the slowing growth of consumer spending,' says Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. 'The traditional peak season may be melting away.'
Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to total 14.5 million containers for 2010, a 15 percent increase over last year’s unusually low numbers, the report said.
“We aren’t back to where we were two years ago and consumers aren’t convinced that the recession is over quite yet, but 2010 is clearly going to finish better than last year,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy.”
NRF said retailers are monitoring demand very closely and hoping to see increases in employment and other areas that will boost consumer confidence.
The ports covered by the report handled 1.32 million TEUs in June, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 4 percent from May and 30 percent from June 2009 and was the seventh month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. The first half of 2010 was estimated at 6.9 million TEU, up 17 percent from the same period last year.
Global Port Tracker covers the ports of Long Angeles-Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
The report gave these estimates of container volumes at those ports in the second half of the year:
' July, 1.38 million TEU, a 25 percent increase over last year.
' August is forecast at 1.32 million TEUs, up 14 percent.
' September also at 1.32 million TEUs, up 16 percent.
' October at 1.31 million TEUs, up 10 percent.
' November at 1.19 million TEUs, up 9 percent.
' December at 1.12 million TEUs, up 2 percent.
The 14.5 million-TEU total forecast for 2010 would be up from 12.7 million TEUs in 2009, which was the lowest since the 12.5 million TEUs reported in 2003. The 2010 number remains below the 15.2 million TEUs seen in 2008.