Import cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to increase 3.2 percent in April compared to the same month last year, and year-over-year gains should continue through the end of summer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are continuing to watch rising gas prices, but job gains and other indicators show the economy is strengthening,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “All of this should improve consumer confidence and lead to increased spending, so retailers are cautiously building up their inventories.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.04 million 20-foot equivalent container units in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. With February traditionally the slowest month of the year, that was down 16 percent from January and 5.7 percent from February 2011.
March was estimated at 1.19 million TEUs, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier, and April is forecast at 1.25 million TEUs, up 3.2 percent year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.29 million TEUs, the same as last year; June at 1.29 million TEUs, up 3.6 percent; July at 1.35 million TEUs, up 1.9 percent; and August at 1.42 million TEUs, up 7.4 percent.
The first half of 2012 should total 7.3 million TEUs, up 2.2 percent from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEUs, up 0.4 percent from 2010’s 14.75 million TEUs.
The NRF continues to project 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4 percent to $2.53 trillion. “Our forecast for the remainder of the year has brought us back to the traditional peak season patterns,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Hopefully, the importers and the carriers can work closely together to ensure sufficient capacity and a solid supply chain.”