Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is now expected to total 12.5 million containers for 2009, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released Sept. 17 by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight. The number is significantly below last year's total but shows improvement from the 12.3 million forecast a month ago.
We're starting to see a pattern where import levels are still below last year but they're not as far below as they were just a few months ago," says Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and Customs policy. "This matches up with other economic indicators that show the recession may be coming to an end."
The 12.5 million 20-foot equivalent units now forecast for 2009 would be a drop of 17.7 percent from last year's 15.2 million TEUs and the lowest since the 12.47 million TEUs in 2003. The number was revised upward to reflect higher projected imports for each of the remaining months of the year as retailers anticipate that economic conditions will begin to ease.
U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.1 million TEUs in July, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 8 percent from June but down 17 percent from July 2008, marking the 25th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline.
"Import container traffic is projected to be weak through January because of the slow pace of recovery from the recession and the slow period that follows the holiday season," says IHS Global Insight economist Paul Bingham. "We are seeing the annual cycle of month-to-month growth that will peak in October, but volume is still below last year's levels."
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