Cargo volume handled by major retail container ports in the US fell again in October and 2008 is now expected to be the slowest year since 2004 "as the downturn in the nation's economy continues", according to the latest monthly Port Tracker report released on Friday (November 7) by that country's National Retail Federation (NRF) and IHS Global Insight.
The report stated that volume was now projected to total 15.3m TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) for the 2008 full year, compared with 16.5m TEUs in 2007. "That would be a decline of 7.1% and the lowest total since 2004, when 14m TEUs moved through the ports," stated the NRF. "The estimate is down from the 15.43m projected a month ago, which would have been a 6.5% decline from 2007 and the lowest number since 2005's 15.4m."
NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold commented: "Retail sales forecasts this year are the lowest they've been in more than half a decade and the cargo volume we're seeing reflects those numbers. The balancing act between supply and demand is tougher than ever because retailers want to make sure they have enough merchandise on the shelves to satisfy customers and not be forced into unplanned markdowns to move excess inventory once the holidays are over."
The NRF said the US ports surveyed handled 1.33m TEUs in September, the most recent month for which actual numbers were available. The number was down 2.9% from August and 9.8% from September 2007. October was estimated at 1.36m TEUs, down 5.7% from a year ago. "If estimates hold true, October will have been the peak shipping month for 2008 but will have fallen significantly short of the 2007 peak of 1.48m TEUs set last September."
The NRF said the forecast figure for November was 1.26m TEU, down 8.7%, and that for December, 1.21m, down 5.5%. January 2009 was forecast to see 1.17m TEUs, down 5%, and February - traditionally the slowest month of the year - 1.12m, down 8.3%. "The first year-over-year increase in months is expected in March, which is forecast at 1.18m TEUs, a 2.3% increase from March 2008."
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