With a pandemic-driven surge finally over, monthly import cargo volume at the US’ major container ports has fallen below the 2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) mark and should remain there through most of this spring, as per the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. US ports handled 1.78 million TEUs this November, the latest month for which final numbers are available.
US’ imports were down 11.3 per cent from October and down 15.8 per cent from November 2021. It was the lowest total since 1.87 million TEUs in February 2021, which had been the only month in over two years to fall below 2 million TEUs, according to a recent Global Port Tracker report by the NRF and Hackett Associates.
Ports have not yet reported December numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 1.88 million TEUs, down 10.1 per cent YoY. That would bring 2022—which repeatedly broke monthly records in the first half of the year but saw significant drops in the second half—to an annual total of 25.7 million TEUs, down 0.7 per cent from the annual record of 25.8 million TEUs set in 2021.
Despite the slowdown in cargo, retail sales are on track to meet NRF’s forecast of 6 per cent to 8 per cent growth over 2021 for both the full year and the holiday season when December’s sales numbers are released next week.
January is forecast at 1.91 million TEUs, down 11.5 per cent YoY. February is forecast at 1.63 million TEUs, the lowest since 1.61 million TEUs in June 2020 and a 23 per cent drop from last year, when backed-up cargo kept congested ports busy. March is forecast at 1.75 million TEUs, down 25.5 per cent YoY; April at 1.94 million, down 14.5 per cent; and May at 2 million TEUs, down 16.2 per cent.
“Ports have been stretched to their limits and beyond but are getting a break as consumer demand moderates amid continued inflation and high interest rates,” NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold was quoted as saying in a press release. “Consumers are still spending, and volumes remain high, but we’re not seeing the congestion at the docks and ships—waiting to unload that were widespread this time a year ago. It’s good to escape some of the pressure, but it’s important to use this time to address supply chain challenges that still need to be resolved like finalising the West Coast port labour contract.”
“After nearly three years of COVID-19’s impact on global trade and consumer demand, import patterns appear to be returning to what was normal prior to 2020,” said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. “Nonetheless, as inflation eases and consumer spending returns, we project that growth will slowly return going into the second half of the year.”
Fibre2Fashion News Desk (NB)