U.S. containerized imports jumped for the third straight month in May, rising 5.9 percent year-over-year.
Preliminary numbers released by PIERS, the data division of JOC Group, Inc., show strong improvement in containerized imports. Carriers brought 1.63 million TEUs into the U.S. in May, a 2.8 percent increase from April’s numbers. Ten of the last 12 months have shown year-over-year increases.
“Imports continue to move upward as consumer spending improves and the economy keeps adding more jobs,” JOC Economist Mario Moreno said. “For the second quarter of this year, I am expecting growth of 5.3% year-over-year, and for all of 2014 I am expecting growth of 6.1% for a total of 19.0 million TEUs — a new peak for containerized imports.”
U.S. containerized imports are up 4.8 percent so far this year.
Northeast Asia continued to lead the pack among source regions, with 972,293 20-foot containers, up 7 percent year-over-year. Imports into the U.S. from both northern Europe and southeast Asia rose 4 percent. Imports from the Mediterranean were 16 percent higher than they were in May 2013, totaling 87,914 TEUs.
Imports from South America’s East Coast were down 18 percent from what they were in 2013, to 29,341 TEUs.
China remained the leading source of U.S. containerized imports, at 781,876 TEUs, 8 percent higher year-over-year. Australia saw the largest percentage increase in container volume, as the U.S. imported 9,464 TEUs from the country, 35 percent more than in May 2013. Imports from Turkey were up 33 percent to 12,620 TEUs.
Container shipments to the U.S. from Brazil and Honduras were both down by double digits. The U.S. brought in 22, 676 TEUs from Brazil in May, 19 percent lower than in the same month in 2013, and 18,533 TEUs from Honduras, 14 percent lower year-over-year.
Imports of menswear into the U.S. were down 30 percent to 14,622 TEUs, and general apparel imports were down 18 percent to 19,942 TEUs. Miscellaneous plastic products and fabric, including raw cotton, were both up 44 percent in May. The largest commodity imports continued to be auto parts, at 69,298 TEUS (7 percent higher than May 2013), and furniture, at 166,636 TEUs, up 1 percent year-over-year.
Industry professionals predicted containerized imports would grow in June, based on negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association on a new contract for longshoremen at West Coast ports. Negotiators are still at the table, with three weeks remaining on the current contract, but the National Retail Federation said it expects shippers to expedite their shipments to West Coast ports to get ahead of any potential disruptions.