U.S. ports continue to handle near-record volumes

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

Imports at major retail container ports in the U.S. should see near-record volume again this month.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retailers are working to meet still-strong consumer demand and protect themselves against potential disruptions at West Coast ports.

The predictions are based on data from the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the NRF and Hackett Associates.

“We’re in for a busy summer at the ports,” NRF vice-president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said.

“Back-to-school supplies are already arriving, and holiday merchandise will be right behind them. And the big wild card is what will happen with West Coast labour negotiations with the current contract set to expire on July 1. We continue to encourage the parties to remain at the table until a deal is done, but some of the surge we’ve seen may be a safeguard against any problems that might arise.”

China opening

Imports from China should start to grow again now that the government has relaxed its Covid Zero policy and begun to release the population of Shanghai from a months-long lockdown, Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said.

“The anticipation is that the Chinese manufacturing and transportation sectors will quickly get back to normal,” Hackett said. Nonetheless, “China’s recovery will need the government’s support in order to get the supply chain functioning normally again to provide the input required by the manufacturing sector.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.26 million TEU in April, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 3.6 percent from March’s 2.34 million TEU – the record for the number of containers imported in a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002 – but up 5.1 percent year over year.

May held steady

Ports have not yet reported May numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.31 million TEU, down 0.9 percent from 2.33 million TEU in May 2021, the second-busiest month on record. June is also forecast at 2.31 million TEU, up 7.5 percent year over year, which would leave May and June tied for the third-highest volume.

July is forecast at 2.3 million TEU, up 4.8 percent from last year; August at 2.28 million TEU, up 0.2 percent; September at 2.13 million TEU, down 0.4 percent, and October also at 2.13 million TEU, down 3.8 percent.

The first six months of 2022 are expected to total 13.5 million TEU, up 5.3 percent year over year. Imports for all of 2021 totaled 25.8 million TEU, a 17.4 percent increase over 2020’s previous annual record of 22 million TEU.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.