Import cargo volume at eight of the nation's major container ports is expected to rise 8 percent in January over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Thursday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
In addition to the forecast, the report provided updated data for November, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. In November, U.S. ports handled 1.23 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the report said. That was down 1.6 percent from October as stocking up for the holiday season wound down, but up 13 percent from November 2009.
November was the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year increases after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.
December was estimated at 1.16 million TEUs, a 7-percent increase over December 2009. January's volumes are forecast to stay at that level, but the figure will represent an 8-percent increase over January 2010. February is forecast at 1.14 TEUs, up 13 percent from a year earlier, and March is forecast at 1.18 million TEUs, up 9 percent. However, the tide will turn in May, according to the report. May volume is forecast at 1.24 million TEUs, down 2 percent from a year ago.
"While the economy clearly began to recover in 2010 and drove up cargo volume as retail sales improved, maintaining that momentum in 2011 could be difficult," said Jonathan Gold, NRF's vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in a statement. "Consumers faced with continued high unemployment are expected to focus more on necessities than discretionary spending."
"Our projections for 2011 remain firm, albeit not at the levels of the recovery rates of last year," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said.
The report covers the ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; New York/New Jersey; Houston; and Hampton Roads, Va.