"This could be the turnaround we've been waiting to see for a long time," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "There's not enough data yet to establish a clear trend, but we're hopeful that this is a sign of recovery."
In September, the U.S. ports handled 1.14 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, down 3 percent from August and 16 percent below the year-ago month. October volume was at 1.17 million TEU, down 15 percent from last year, while November is on track for 1.09 million TEU, an 11 percent drop from last year. December should land at 1.06 million TEU, a stable number compared with last year, while January 2010 is expected to reach 1.03 million TEU, down 3 percent.
The report predicts the trend to be broken in February, when cargo is expected to total 973,872 TEU, a 16 percent rise from February 2009. March 2010 is forecast at 1.02 million, a 5 percent increase over March 2009.
For 2009, total volume is expected to reach 12.7 million TEU, 16.8 percent lower than last year and the lowest since 2003.
"The second half of 2009 has continued to see declines from 2008's levels, but not as large as we saw during the first half of this year," said Paul Bingham, IHS Global Insight economist. "These 'less bad' numbers are evidence that the industry is seeing early signs of recovery."
The Port Tracker covers Los 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.
For more information, visit www.nrf.com/PortTracker.