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Retail container volume rising

Projections call for 25% increase

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is projected to jump 25% during the first six months of 2010 on a year-over-year basis, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

December shipments broke a 28-month streak of monthly totals declining consistently. U.S. ports handled 1.09 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in December, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was consistent with units from November but up 2.6%. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, cautioned that container volumes don’t correspond directly with dollar volumes in sales. “But retailers are clearly expecting to move more merchandise this year,” Gold said.

January volume was estimated at 1.19 million TEU, up 17% year-over-year. Although February is usually the slowest month of the year, Hackett projects a 30% boom in shipments to 1.1 million TEU.

On a year-over-year basis, shipments are expected to climb 23% in March, 27% in April, 26% in May and 36% in June. That would put the first half of 2010 at 7.4 million TEU, up 25% from last year’s 5.9 million TEU.

“This forecast assumes that we are not in a double-dip recession and that a recovery is underway,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Although 2009 saw decreased import activity levels, the forecast for 2010 points toward growth.”

Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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