Growth in import cargo volume at the U.S.’s 10 busiest container ports is expected to level off until the annual peak season begins in August, the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said in their monthly Global Port Tracker.
Volume through those ports in March totaled 1.08 million 20-foot-equivalent units, an increase of 0.3 percent that represented the 16th consecutive month of year-to-year gains. April is forecast at 1.18 million TEUs, a 4 percent increase from 2010, but year-to-year declines are forecast for May, June and July.
Retail Sales Rise 0.5 Percent in April .
“After nearly a year and a half of volume increases, it’s not surprising to see some leveling off,” said Jonathan Gold, the retail federation’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers are being cautious with how much merchandise they import due to economic pressures such as higher commodity prices, but overall consumer demand remains strong.”
May import volume at the ports is forecast at 1.26 million TEUs, the first year-to-year decline since November 2009. June is forecast at 1.31 million TEUs, down 0.1 percent, and July at 1.38 million TEUs.
Volume growth is expected to resume during the annual peak season for holiday merchandise. The Port Tracker forecast calls for increases of 2 percent to 1.46 million TEUs in August and 11 percent to 1.49 million TEUs in September.
By the Numbers:
U.S. Monthly Container Trade.
The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.1 million TEU, up 4 percent from the first half of 2010. Global Port Tracker forecasts only six months beyond actual numbers, so a forecast for the full year is not yet available.
Imports through the ports during 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16 percent increase over 2009.
“Consumers are being cautious about their expenditures in light of the higher gasoline costs and rising inflation combined with mixed signals from the economic data,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “Nevertheless, we expect the second half of the year to be more robust than the first half.”
Global Port Tracker covers the ports of Long Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Houston.