Retailers project a drop in containerized imports in November because of the eight-day clerical workers strike in Los Angeles-Long Beach, but volumes should be up 3.9 percent in December compared to the same month last year.
“After a strong kickoff on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is looking good, and these numbers reflect that,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation.
The NRF and Hackett Associates each month publish the Global Port Tracker, which measures containerized imports at U.S. ports and projects volumes going forward six months.
October was the latest month for which the Global Port Tracker had complete figures. October’s volume was down 1 percent from September but up 5.2 percent from October 2011.
The momentum was cut short on Nov. 27 when the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 shut down 10 of the 14 container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach. The Southern California port complex handles about 40 percent of U.S. imports from Asia.
The ports were back in full operation on Dec. 5. While seven vessels were diverted to Mexico and Panama during the strike, a number of ships were simply rerouted to call first at Oakland to drop off cargo for Northern California before returning to Los Angeles-Long Beach. As a result, Global Port Tracker projects only a small loss of cargo from the strike.
For the traditional peak shipping season of August through September, containerized imports increased 3.6 percent compared to the same months last year. NRF projects that holiday sales this season will increase 4.1 percent from the 2011 holiday shopping seasons.
The impact of the Southern California strike is likely to be demonstrated when the November port numbers are finalized. Global Port Tracker projects November’s imports will be down 5.6 percent from November 2011. The projection for all of 2012 is that imports will increase 2.5 percent over calendar year 2011.
Projections into next spring are for imports in January to increase 2 percent from January 2012. Imports are projected to be up 5.9 percent in February, 2 percent in March and 3.2 percent in April from the same months in 2012.