Retail Container Traffic to Increase 10% in March

WASHIGTON - Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 10% in March compared with the same month last year, and year-over-year gains should continue through midsummer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
     "Retailers are still watching all the economic indicators very carefully, but there are enough signs of improvement that stores are carefully stocking up," NRF vp for supply chain and Customs policy Jonathan Gold said. "Retailers only import more if they expect to sell more, so these numbers are a sign that optimism is growing."
     U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.22 million TEUs in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.4% from December and 1.3% from January 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
     February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.05 million TEU, down 4.2% from a year ago, and March is forecast at 1.2 million TEU, up 10% from last year. April is forecast at 1.26 million TEU, up 3.6%; May at 1.28 million TEU, the same as last year; June at 1.3 million TEU, up 4.2%; and July at 1.36 million TEU, up 2.8%.
     The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010's 14.75 million TEU. The first half of 2012 should total 7.32 million TEU, up 2.4% from the same period last year.
     NRF continues to project 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.
     Despite the increases, ship owners have more vessels in service than cargo to fill them and are experimenting with "rate restoration" strategies that could impact retailers and other shippers, Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said.
     "The maritime industry is in a quandary," Hackett said. "As long as this imbalance exists, there will be volatility in the freight rates."
     Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

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