Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.5 percent in September compared with the same month last year, with strong increases expected into the holiday season, despite talk of a possible dockworkers' strike at East and Gulf Coast ports, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are bringing in more merchandise for the holiday season this year," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. “The question at some ports is whether longshoremen will be on the docks to unload it. Regardless of what happens with contract talks, retailers have contingency plans in place to ensure that merchandise reaches store shelves in time and that there is no disruption for shoppers.”
Talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance broke down in August, and at least one major ILA local has authorized a strike if a new contract for East and Gulf Coast ports isn’t agreed on by the time the current pact expires Sept. 30. Labor and management have agreed to meet again next week under the supervision of theU.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Retailers are considering a variety of contingency plans, including diverting cargo to West Coast ports, which are represented by a separate union and not affected.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.4 million TEUs in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.5 percent from July 2011, while August was estimated at 1.4 million TEUs, up 4.4 percent year-on-year.
September is forecast at nearly 1.5 million TEUs, up 8.5 percent; October also at nearly 1.5 million TEUs, up 11.7 percent; November at 1.3 million TEUs, up 1.9 percent; and December at nearly 1.3 million TEUs, up 2.7 percent. January 2013 is forecast at 1.2 million TEUs, down 3.8 percent from January 2012.
It should be noted that second half 2012 volume figures will likely look favorable compared to low second half 2011 levels.
The first half of 2012 totaled 7.7 million TEUs, up 3 percent from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 is expected to total 16 million TEUs, up 4.2 percent from 2011.
The numbers released Monday reflect the addition of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the list of ports covered by Global Port Tracker, with 2011 numbers adjusted to provide accurate comparisons.
Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said shipping patterns are being affected by the possibility of a strike.
“Importers anticipating a strike placed orders early to ensure that their goods would arrive in time, and are most likely also switching deliveries for the East Coast to the West Coast instead,” Hackett said. “As a consequence, August appears to have been a relatively good month, and September will also be above the norm. The West Coast will benefit at least through October as cargo is diverted.”
Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Long 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.
The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at www.nrf.com/PortTracker
or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at www.globalporttracker.com