The Global Port Tracker report released today (8 June) by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates reveals that import cargo volume at major US container ports is anticipated to be 22% lower in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year, despite increased consumer spending.
The report highlights disruptions at West Coast ports, although these incidents have not yet had a widespread impact on nationwide data. Despite the decline in cargo volume, retailers are gearing up for the busiest shipping season of the year as they prepare to import holiday merchandise.
NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold, expressed concern over ongoing disruptions at the ports and said: “If labour and management can’t reach an agreement and operate smoothly and efficiently, retailers will have no choice but to continue to take their cargo to East Coast and Gulf Coast gateways. We continue to urge the administration to step in and help the parties reach an agreement and end the disruptions so operations can return to normal. We’ve had enough unavoidable supply chain issues in the past two years. This is not the time for one that can be avoided.”
Earlier this week, NRF issued a statement calling for US Government intervention following reports of disruptions at the ports of Oakland and Long Beach. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association have been engaged in labour negotiations for over a year without reaching a new agreement.
Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, noted the divergence between the decline in container import demand and the sustained growth in consumer demand. He added: “Import container shipments have returned to the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 and appear likely to stay there for a while.”
Global Port Tracker findings:
- US ports covered in the report handled 1.78 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in April, representing a 9.6% increase from March but a 21.3% decrease compared to the same period last year
- Global Port Tracker projected a decline of 23% year over year, estimating May at 1.84 million TEU
- June is forecasted to reach 1.91 million TEU, down 15.3% compared to the same month last year
- The first half of 2023 is expected to reach 10.5 million TEU, a 22.3% decrease from the first half of 2022
- The report forecasts July to reach 1.99 million TEU, down 8.8% year over year
- August at 2.02 million TEU (a 10.5% decrease)
- September at 1.95 million TEU (a 4% decrease)
- October at 1.95 million TEU (a 2.7% decrease).
- Global Port Tracker predicts the third quarter to total 5.97 million TEU, down 7.9% compared to the same period last year
- The first nine months of 2023 are expected to reach 16.48 million TEU, a 17.6% decline year over year.
- Import numbers for 2022 amounted to 25.5 million TEU, representing a 1.2% decrease from the record set in 2021 with 25.8 million TEU.
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