Port Traffic Continues To Rise

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.3% in November over the same time last year as consumers begin their holiday shopping, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy. “That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations. Retailers had instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.62 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 3.5% from August but up 2.2% from a year ago. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

October was estimated at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.5% from 2014. November is forecast at 1.51 million TEU, up 8.3%, and December at 1.44 million TEU, up 0.4%.

Those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.35 million TEU, up 6.1% from last year. The first half of 2015 totaled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5% over the same period last year.

January 2016 is forecast at 1.46 million TEU, up 18.5% from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed in February 2015 on a new contract that ended a months-long labor dispute. February 2016 is forecast at 1.41 million TEU, up 17.9%, also skewed by the labor dispute. March is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, down 21.9% from a year ago because of large volumes seen after the contract agreement.