Port Tracker sees healthy container growth in spring
Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 6.1 percent in April, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released Monday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“With winter over, retailers are stocking up in anticipation of a busy spring and summer,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “A busy time is expected over the next few months, so retailers are keeping a close eye on the labor situation at West Coast ports to ensure that cargo continues to move smoothly."
Gold noted that the current contract for West Coast dockworkers expires June 30, but negotiations are not expected to begin until mid-May.
“Companies are already exploring contingency plans in case of a disruption,” he said.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.3 million TEUs in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. February is historically the slowest month of the year, and the number was down 1.4 percent from February 2013.
March was estimated at 1.3 million TEUs, up 15 percent from the same month last year, while April is forecast at 1.4 million TEUs, up 6.1 percent from last year. May is forecast at 1.4 million TEUs, up 3.8 percent; June at 1.4 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent; July at 1.5 million TEUs, up 3.1 percent, and August at 1.5 million TEUs, up 1.2 percent. The first half of the year is expected to total 8.2 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent over last year.
The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEUs, up 2.3 percent from 2012’s 15.8 million TEUs.
The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1 percent sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, but is a barometer of retailers’ expectations, NRF said.
“There is positive news with both the rebound in U.S. retail sales in February and the new filings for jobless benefits hitting a fresh three-month low last week, suggesting that the economy is gaining momentum,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Our forecast continues to reflect the economic rebound and we remain convinced that 2014 will have sustainable growth.”
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