October container imports to climb 9%
Import container volumes at the nation's major retail ports is expected to be up 11 percent in October over the same month last year, said the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Friday.
October has long been the busiest month of the year as retailers rush to fill shelves with merchandise for the holiday season. But Port Tracker, released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associations, said the peak shifted to August this year.
'Cargo is still coming through but retailers are mostly stocked up for the holiday season,' said Jonathan Gold, NRF's vice president for supply chain and customs policy.
The change came both because of a backlog in cargo from earlier in the year after ocean carriers were slow to replace vessels taken out of service during the recession, and because retailers brought merchandise into the country early to avoid the risk of delays this fall.
The latest report said the 10 U.S. ports it tracks handled 1.42 million TEU in August, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 3 percent from July and 23 percent from August 2009. It was the ninth month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.
Port Tracker's monthly projections through February are:
' September estimated at 1.37 million TEUs, a 20 percent increase over last year.
' October, 1.32 million TEUs, up 11 percent.
' November, 1.21 million TEUs, up 11 percent.
' December, 1.12 million TEU, up 3 percent.
' January 2011, 1.09 million TEUs, up 8 percent.
' February, 992,848 TEUs, down 1 percent.
The first half of 2010 totaled 6.9 million TEUs, up 17 percent from the same period last year. The full year is forecast at 14.7 million TEUs, which would be up 16 percent from the 12.7 million TEUs in 2009, the lowest year since 12.5 million TEUs was reported in 2003. The 2010 number remains below the 15.2 million TEUs seen in 2008 and the peak of 16.5 million TEUs in 2007.
'Trade, particularly imports, is a strong indicator that recovery is sustainable,' said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. 'We continue to expect the fourth quarter to be seasonally weak, perhaps slightly more so than in the past because the peak has shifted to an earlier month, but it will nonetheless have been a good year.'
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long 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.