U.S. Container Ports Anticipate Record Inbound Cargo Volumes This Summer

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According to the latest Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, the nation’s major container ports are predicted to see the highest monthly inbound cargo volumes in nearly two years this summer.

Retailers’ Preparations for Strong Sales

Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, attributes the surge to increased consumer spending and retailers preparing for peak shipping season. Despite supply chain challenges and overseas port congestion, the high import levels reflect retailers’ confidence in robust sales for the remainder of the year.

Shifts in Peak Shipping Season

Ben Hackett, Founder of Hackett Associates, notes an anticipated seven-month streak of import levels exceeding 2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU). This trend, seen only twice since October 2022, is partly due to a more extended peak shipping season. Contributing factors include post-pandemic restocking, preemptive actions against upcoming tariffs on Chinese goods, and ensuring ample holiday inventories amid strong consumer demand.

Rising TEU Numbers

In April, U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker managed 2.02 million TEU, marking a 4.6% increase from March and a 13.2% year-over-year rise, the highest since October 2022. Projections for May, June, and July show continued growth, with expected volumes of 2.09 million, 2.11 million, and 2.1 million TEU, respectively.

The first half of 2024 is anticipated to total 12.1 million TEU, a 15% increase from the same period last year. Despite a 12.8% decrease in imports during 2023, NRF predicts retail sales in 2024 to grow between 2.5% and 3.5% over 2023, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants.

Global Port Tracker Overview

The Global Port Tracker report, produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, offers historical data and forecasts for key U.S. ports on the West, East, and Gulf Coasts. The report is available for free to NRF retail members, with subscription details for non-members accessible on the Global Port Tracker website.

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Source: National Retail Federation