Imports Expected To Rise In August

Import cargo volume at the nation’s ports is expected to rise in August as retailers make preparations for the holiday season.

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Friday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, container traffic at the nation’s major ports is expected to increase 3.6% in August when compared to the same month of 2014.

“Consumers might be out buying back-to-school supplies but toys and sweaters are starting to show up on the docks,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy with the NRF. “There are still some lingering congestion issues but retailers are working with their supply chain partners to make sure all of that merchandise flows smoothly to store shelves.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.57 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, down 2.5% from May but up 6.2% when compared to June 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.59 million TEU, up 6% from 2014. August is forecast at 1.57 million TEU, up 3.6%; September at 1.59 million TEU, down 0.1%; October at 1.58 million TEU, up 1.2%; November at 1.45 million TEU, up 4.5%, and December at 1.4 million TEU, down 2.8%.

Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18 million TEU, up 4.2% from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5% over the same period last year.

According to the NRF, some retailers are paying less to transport their merchandise this year, thanks to the use of more large-capacity ships by ocean carriers.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the increased capacity has driven down rates, but the relief could be short-lived because some lines have already canceled voyages to counteract the trend. “We are seeing complete chaos on the high seas in terms of the amount of capacity available and the level of spot freight rates,” Hackett said. “One has to wonder why carriers cannot match supply to demand. The end result will likely be a highly volatile situation of freight rates moving up and down.”