As storerunners work to meet steady consumer demand and protect themselves against potential West Coast port disruptions, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports should see near-record volume again this month, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
In April, bustling ports in the United States covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.26 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, one 20-foot container or its equivalent. April is the latest month for which final numbers have been tallied and one that experienced a 5.1% year-over-year gain but a 3.6% volume decline from March when ports moved 2.34 million TEU. The March tally set a record for the number of containers imported in a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.
Ports haven’t reported May numbers yet, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.31 million TEU, down 0.9 % from 2.33 million TEU in May 2021, the second-busiest month on record. Global Port Tracker forecast June at 2.31 million TEU, up 7.5% year over year, which would leave May and June tied for the third-highest volume. It forecast July at 2.3 million TEU, up 4.8 % from the year-before month and August at 2.28 million TEU, up 0.2% year over year, September at 2.13 million TEU, down 0.4%, and October also at 2.13 million TEU, down 3.8%.
For the first six months of 2022, Global Port Tracker anticipates volume to total 13.5 million TEU, up 5.3% year over year. Imports for all of 2021 totaled 25.8 million TEU, a 17.4% increase over 2020’s previous annual record of 22 million TEU.
“We’re in for a busy summer at the ports,” NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said in introducing the port numbers. “Back-to-school supplies are already arriving, and holiday merchandise will be right behind them. And the big wild card is what will happen with West Coast labor negotiations with the current contract set to expire on July 1. We continue to encourage the parties to remain at the table until a deal is done, but some of the surge we’ve seen may be a safeguard against any problems that might arise.”
Hackett added, “The anticipation is that the Chinese manufacturing and transportation sectors will quickly get back to normal. China’s recovery will need the government’s support in order to get the supply chain functioning normally again to provide the input required by the manufacturing sector.”
Global Port Tracker, produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast, New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. NRF will hold its Supply Chain 360 conference in Cleveland from June 20 to 21.