Port Tracker Has 2021 Import Volumes At Record Rate

U.S. retail container import levels remain on track to end 2021 with both the largest volume and the fastest growing on record, amid problems and disruption in the supply chain. supply due to a pandemic, according to the most recent issue of the Global Port Tracker report, which was released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy firm Hackett Consultants.

The ports studied in the report include: Los Angeles / Long Beach; Oakland; Tacoma; Seattle; Houston; New York / New Jersey; the Hampton roads; Charleston and Savannah; Miami; Jacksonville; and Port Everglades based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The authors of the report explained that the number of freight imports does not directly correlate with retail sales or employment as they only count the number of freight containers brought into the country, not the value of merchandise inside, adding that the quantity of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of traders’ expectations.

“It has been an unprecedented year,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in a statement. “We’ve seen more disruption than ever due to problems every step of the supply chain and continued strong consumer demand, but we’re also seeing more freight and faster growth than ever before. There are still ships to unload and containers to deliver, but everyone in the supply chain has been working overtime this year to try to overcome these challenges. For the most part, they have been successful, and consumers will be able to find what they need for the holidays.

The report explained that 2021 imports are expected to reach 26 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), which would represent an annual increase of 18.3% from the current record of 2020, to 22 million TEU ( up 1.9% from 2019) and also marks the highest annual tally, for the report, since it started tracking imports in 2002. And the projected annual increase of 18.3% would be higher than the 16.7% annual gain in 2010 and its current peak, as the economy was emerging from the Great Recession.

By the way, the report says that while imports are not directly correlated with sales, the expected record would be in tandem with its prediction of holiday retail sales – which it sets as for the months of November and December – up 11.5% per year.

In its previous edition, Port Tracker observed that the combination of congestion and supply chain disruption remained intact from last year and into this year’s peak season, the report notes. But as the process leading up to peak season has been far from typical, he said, a myriad of retailers bringing in holiday season merchandise much earlier than normal, in order to ensure sufficient stock.

For October, the most recent month for which data are available, the import volume, at 2.21 million TEUs, increased 3.5% from September and decreased 0.2% annually . May 2021 remains the biggest month ever, at 2.33 million TEUs).

Imports in November were expected to match October’s 2.21 million TEUs, an annual gain of 5.1% and still represent one of the five largest months on record. And December was estimated at 2.2 million TEUs, marking an annual gain of 4.6%.

For the following months, Port Tracker issued the following projections:

  • January, to 2.24 million TEUs, an annual increase of 9%;
  • February, to 2 million TEUs, for an annual increase of 7.3%;
  • March, to 2.19 million TEUs, an annual decline of 3.3%; and
  • April, to 2.2 million TEUs, for an annual increase of 2.2%

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett wrote in the report that the supply chain continues to face a myriad of issues, including COVID-19, port and inland transportation congestion, a lack of manpower. work at all points in the supply chain, storms in Asia, lack of electricity in China, and insufficient capacity of ships, among others.

“As the problems with land transport continue and a large backlog of container ships builds up on both coasts – estimated at well over 100 ships – we are seeing year-over-year growth rates. go back to normal patterns without the double-digit fluctuations induced by the going of pandemic lockdowns, ”Hackett wrote. “This does not mean that volumes are going down, but rather that the economy and consumer demand have returned to a more normal state. We expect demand levels to stabilize and we will have more seasonal patterns at a new quarterly level of 7 million to 7.5 million TEUs over the next 12 months for tracked ports.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics management, Modern material handling, and Supply chain management review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation and material handling industries on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman


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