Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to be up 11 percent in March over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
"These numbers show solid increases over last year and are evidence that our nation's economic recovery is continuing to build momentum," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Increases in imports are a clear sign that retailers expect sales to continue to climb in the next several months."
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.2 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in January, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 5 percent from December and 12 percent from January 2010. It was the 14th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. (One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.)
February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.12 million TEU, which would represent an increase of 12 percent over February 2010. March is forecast at 1.19 million TEU, up 11 percent from a year ago; April at 1.24 million TEU, up 9 percent; May at 1.32 million TEU, up 5 percent; June at 1.39 million TEU, up 5 percent; and July at 1.45 million TEU, up 5 percent.
The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.5 million TEU, up 9 percent from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16 percent increase over 2009. Last year's percentages were high because 2009's 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003.
Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said recent political turmoil in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere is driving up oil prices and will likely increase shipping costs.
"Oil supply is going down as a number of nations have dropped out of the production cycle," Hackett said. "Freight rates have been decreasing but that will not last long as fuel costs are factored in."
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