Washington, D.C. -- Import volume at major U.S. retail container ports is expected to increase 6.1% in April 2014, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates. U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.26 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in February 2014, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available.
February is historically the slowest month of the year, and the number was down 8.4% from January 2014 and 1.4% from February 2013. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. March was estimated at 1.31 million TEU, up 15% from the same month last year. April is forecast at 1.38 million TEU, up 6.1% from the prior year; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 3.8%; June at 1.43 million TEU, up 5.5%; July at 1.49 million TEU, up 3.1%, and August at 1.51 million TEU, up 1.2%. The first half of the year is expected to total 8.2 million TEU, up 5.5% from the previous year.
The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU. The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014, contingent on how Washington policies on economic issues affect consumer confidence. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales but is a barometer of retailers’ expectations.
“With winter over, retailers are stocking up in anticipation of a busy spring and summer,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “Consumers can expect plentiful supplies of merchandise. A busy time is expected over the next few months, so retailers are keeping a close eye on the labor situation at West Coast ports to ensure that cargo continues to move smoothly. Companies are already exploring contingency plans in case of a disruption.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.