NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
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U.S. Ports Prepare for Peak Import Cargo Volume in Nearly a Year
By Sea and Coast | 08/08/2023
Major U.S. container ports are anticipating the highest import cargo volume in nearly a year this month as retailers gear up for the upcoming winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The resolution of crucial labor negotiations has allowed retailers to shift their focus to the holiday import season. Key labor agreements have been reached at West Coast ports and United Parcel Service, while a Canadian port strike concluded with a ratified tentative agreement. Although there have been year-over-year declines in cargo volumes despite increased consumer spending and employment, the NRF expects a smooth shipping season for the winter holiday shopping period.
Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett notes that while consumer spending and sales growth are rising, cargo volumes have seen double-digit year-over-year declines due to retailers working through excess inventory during the last year and a half.
In June, U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.83 million TEUs, representing a 5.2% drop from May and an 18.7% decline year over year. The first half of 2023 witnessed a total of 10.5 million TEUs, marking a 22% decrease from the same period in 2022.
Global Port Tracker's projections indicate that August will be the first month to reach 2 million TEUs since the prior October, although it is still expected to be down 10.2% year over year. Forecasts suggest September will decrease by 3%, October by 1%, November will experience an 8% increase (the first YoY increase since June 2022), and December will rise by 10.7% year over year. July's data is yet to be reported, but the month is anticipated to see 1.91 million TEUs, representing a 12.7% decline compared to the previous year.
Based on these projections, 2023's total container imports are estimated to reach 22.3 million TEUs, which would signify a 12.8% decrease from the previous year's 25.5 million TEUs. The all-time annual import record was set in 2021 at 25.8 million TEUs during the peak of the pandemic-induced shipping surge.