U.S. container traffic continues upswing
Import cargo volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to be increase 15 percent in June compared with the same month a year ago, and double-digit increases should continue into the fall as the U.S. economy recovers, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Monday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
'Cargo import numbers are up but retailers are looking closely at other economic indicators to make sure they are sourcing the appropriate amount of merchandise based on consumer demand,' said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. 'Job creation remains a key factor that's going to affect consumer spending and retail sales.'
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.15 million TEUs in April, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 7 percent from March and up 16 percent from April 2009. It was also the fifth month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year monthly declines.
May was estimated at 1.16 million TEUs, a 12 percent increase over last year as spring products hit store shelves and summer merchandise followed close behind. June is forecast to remain at 1.16 million TEUs but the figure would be up 15 percent from last year. July is forecast at 1.23 million TEUs, up 11 percent from last year; August at 1.27 million TEUs, up 10 percent; September at 1.31 million TEUs, up 15 percent; and October — traditionally the busiest month of the year ' at 1.34 million TEUs, up 12 percent.
The strong year-over-year increases are partly due to easy comparisons against unusually low numbers last year, NRF and Hackett Associates said.
The first half of 2010 is expected to total 6.6 million TEUs, up 12 percent from the same period last year. Imports for 2009 totaled 12.7 million TEUs, down 17 percent from 2008's 15.2 million TEUs and the lowest since the 12.5 million TEUs reported in 2003.
'Virtually all of the ocean carriers now seem to accept that there will not be a relapse into a second-dip recession nor an end to the growth,' Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said, noting that many shipping companies have recently restored services and capacity that had been cut back. 'Not a day goes by without a new announcement of additional services or re-instatement of services that had been withdrawn.'