Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports hit its lowest level in seven years in February as the number of containers dropped below the one million mark for the first time in half a decade, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released recently by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight. Numbers began climbing again in March and April, but the one million mark won't be seen again before May, and imports will continue to see significant declines compared with last year at least through the summer.
"These numbers come during the slowest part of the annual shipping cycle, so they're expected to be low, but they nonetheless show the severity of the current recession and its impact on the retail industry," says Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "The good news is that we've already seen the bottom for the year, and month-to-month numbers are already starting to climb. We're still going to see double-digit declines compared with last year, but the size of the gap is starting to narrow."
U.S. ports surveyed handled only 847,832 TEUs in February, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 20.6 percent from January's 1.07 million TEUs and 31.3 percent from February 2008's 1.23 million TEUs. One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.
U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker include 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.
Source: National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight
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