NRF: August Import Levels Could Be Record Setting

Import levels at the nation’s major ports continue to grow with August expected to be the busiest month on record, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Retailers are selling more and that means they need to import more,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “With sales showing year-over-year increases almost every month for a long time now, retail supply chains are working hard to keep up. These latest numbers are a good sign of what retailers expect in terms of consumer demand over the next few months.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.69 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2% from May but up 7.5% from June 2016. July was estimated at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.6% from the same time last year. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

August is forecast at 1.75 million TEU, up 2.1% from last year. That would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the 1.73 million TEU seen in March 2015. The 1.7 million-plus numbers seen in May and July and now expected for August and October would represent four of the six busiest months in the report’s history, NRF officials said.

September is forecast at 1.67 million TEU, up 4.7% from last year; October at 1.72 million TEU, up 3%; November at 1.62 million TEU, down 1.4%, and December at 1.59 million TEU, up 1.5%.

If achieved, those numbers would bring 2017 to a total of 19.7 million TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8 million TEU by 4.9%. That compares with 2016’s 3.1% increase over 2015. While July numbers are not yet final, the first half of 2017 tentatively totaled 9.7 million TEU, up 7.4% from the same period in 2016.