Import cargo volume at the United States’ major retail container ports is expected to rise 2.3 percent in March compared with the same month last year, despite federal spending cuts that could slow down cargo processing, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are aware of the impact of the cuts on Customs operations at the ports and are working to plan accordingly so the impact on merchandise headed for the store shelves is minimized,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in a written statement.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.33 million 20-foot-equivalent units in January, up 0.9 percent from December and 3.7 percent from January 2012. February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.16 million TEUs, up 6.8 percent from a year ago. March is forecast at 1.27 million TEUs, up 2.3 percent from last year; April at 1.35 million TEUs, up 3.5 percent; May at 1.44 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent; June also at 1.44 million TEUs, up 4.2 percent; and July at 1.46 million TEUs, up 3.2 percent.
Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, warned that federal spending cuts under the “sequestration” that took effect March 1 would result in port staffing cutbacks that could cause customs inspections of cargo containers to take as long as five days. The ports will be affected by immediate cuts to overtime pay and then furloughs in mid-April.