NRF Sees Cargo Volume Hitting Yearly Peak in August

NRF Sees Cargo Volume Hitting Yearly Peak in August

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is forecasted to hit its highest level in nearly a year this month as retailers stock up for the winter holidays, according to Global Port Tracker’s report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“Port and package-delivery labor negotiations that threatened the supply chain at the beginning of the summer have been resolved, and retailers are now focused on preparing for the all-important holiday season,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “There are always supply challenges to be faced, but holiday merchandise is flowing into the country, and we expect to see a smooth shipping season ahead of the winter holiday shopping season.”

Labor and management at West Coast ports reached a tentative contract agreement in June, a 13-day port strike in western Canada that affected some U.S. retailers last month ended with a tentative agreement and UPS and the Teamsters agreed to a tentative contract that avoided a potential August 1 strike.

On August 4, a Canadian labor agreement was ratified, but the others remain in the ratification processes.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said double-digit year-over-year decreases in cargo volume this year have come even though consumer spending and U.S. employment have increased.

“Dollar figures for international trade show imports remain in a year-over-year decline and cargo volume shows the same,” Hackett said. “The discrepancy between rising growth in sales and declining cargo volumes is happening because retailers are working their way through inventory built up over the last 12 to 18 months. Cargo growth should resume as inventories are depleted.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.83 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, one 20-foot container or its equivalent, in June, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 5.2 percent from May and down 18.7 percent year-over-year. That brought the first half of 2023 to 10.5 million TEU, down 22 percent from the first half of 2022.

Ports have not reported July numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 1.91 million TEU, down 12.7 percent year-over-year. August is forecasted at 2.03 million TEU, down 10.2 percent year-over-year, but the first month since last October to reach 2 million TEU. September is forecasted at 1.97 million TEU, down 3 percent; October at 1.99 million TEU, down 1 percent; November at 1.92 million TEU, up 8 percent for the first year-over-year increase since June 2022, and December also at 1.92 million TEU, up 10.7 percent year-over-year. Those numbers would bring 2023 to 22.3 million TEU, down 12.8 percent from last year.

Imports for 2022 totaled 25.5 million TEU, down 1.2 percent from the annual record of 25.8 million TEU set in 2021.

Global Port Tracker 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.

Photo courtesy Global Port Tracker