Retail Container Volume Expected to End Two Years of Declines
WASHINGTON, December 22, 2009 -- After more than two-and-a-half years of year-over-year declines, import cargo volume at the nations major retail container ports is expected to see three straight months of gains in early 2010, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.
"We've been seeing hints of a turnaround in our past few reports, but this is starting to look like a clear trend," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "If retailers are starting to import more merchandise, it's because they expect to be able to sell more, and that's a good sign for our industry and the overall economy."
U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.18 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in October, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 4 percent from September as retailers hit their busiest shipping month of the year as the holiday season approached, but nonetheless down 14 percent from October 2008 and marked the 28th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline. November was estimated at 1.09 million TEU, down 12 percent from last year, and December is forecast at 1.05 million TEU, down 1 percent from last year. January 2010 is forecast at 1.02 million TEU, down 4 percent from January 2009. One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.
The January figure would mark the 31st month of year-over-year declines, but the trend is forecast to be broken in February 2010, when cargo is expected to total 972,391 TEU. The figure is below the 1 million mark because February is the slowest month of the year, but would be a 16 percent increase over February 2009. March 2010 is forecast at 1.02 million TEU, a 6 percent increase over March 2009, and April 2010 is forecast at 1.08 million TEU, a 9 percent increase over April 2010. Port Tracker forecasts only six months in advance, so later numbers aren't yet known.