Ocean Imports to Remain Flat for Several Months, Retail Report Says
The Global Port Tracker says inventory concerns at retailers will weigh on shipping before stores start restocking for the spring
Beginning in November, import volumes at the nation’s major seaports fell below 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent units, a standard measure for cargo containers, according to the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates LLC.
The monthly report said the import volume likely will remain flat from month to month as retailers assess holiday sales before stocking stores for the spring. From November through February, volumes are expected to stay in the range of 1.41 to 1.48 million containers—well below peak monthly import volumes of 1.68 million TEUs the ports handled in August,
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By November 2014, congestion was mounting at the Pacific ports as protracted labor negotiations between dockworkers and their employers turned more contentious, causing severe delays. In November 2015, major seaports handled a total of 1.48 million import TEUs, 6% more than they had the previous November.
“Enough time has passed since the disruption on the West Coast that we can no longer look to that for justification of the high level,” said Ben Hackett, the report’s author.
Hackett said retailers remain concerned about higher-than-normal inventory levels in warehouses and distribution centers. The U.S. Census Bureau’s measure of ratio of inventories to sales reached 1.48 in October, the last month for which figures were available, the highest level since June 2009.
The NRF estimated that December 2015 volume at the top U.S. ports was roughly equal to 2014 at 1.44 million TEUs, bringing the 2015 total to 18.2 million TEUs, an increase of 5.4% over 2014.
The report includes the U.S. West Coast ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle-Tacoma and the East and Gulf Coast ports of New York-New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Va., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., Houston and Port Everglades and Miami in Florida.