NRF: U.S. Import Volume Remains Steady

The bankruptcy filing in late August by Hanjin Shipping has done little to negatively impact the amount of cargo entering the United States, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Hanjin should not significantly affect volume for the month since alternative arrangements to unload those containers or shift cargo elsewhere should be dealt with by the time the numbers are tallied,” said Jonathan Gold, vp,/supply chain and customs policy with the NRF. “But millions of dollars worth of merchandise is in limbo at the moment, and retailers are working hard to make sure it ends up on store shelves in time for the holidays.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.63 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 3.2% from June and up 0.7% from July 2015. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

August was estimated at 1.67 million TEU, down 0.4% from last year, and is expected to have been the busiest month of the annual shipping-cycle buildup to the holiday shopping season. September is forecast at 1.62 million TEU, down 0.2% from last year; October at 1.63 million TEU, up 5.3% from last year; November at 1.53 million TEU, up 3.8%, and December at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.6%.

Those figures should bring 2016 to a total of 18.6 million TEU, up 1.8% from last year. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEU, up 5.4% from 2014. The first half of 2016 totaled 9 million TEU, up 1.6% from the same period in 2015.

January 2017 is forecast at 1.53 million TEU, up 2.8% from January 2016.

“Despite the apparent slowdown in economic activity being reported around the world, the volume of imports continues to grow slowly, much along the lines that we have been projecting,” said Ben Hackett, founder, Hackett Associates.