Import cargoes set to increase 3.9% in December

Shipping Container

Import retail cargo volumes at major retail container ports are expected to increase by 3.9% in December, despite a strike that closed the country’s largest port complex for the first few days of the month.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report, released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, found US ports handled 1.39 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in October. This was down 1% from September, but up 5.2% from October 2011.

The report estimates that 1.27 million TEU will come into the country during December, up 3.9% on last year, while January is set to see a 2% rise to 1.31 million TEU, and a 5.9% rise in February with 1.15 million TEU. March is forecast to record a 2% rise with 1.27 million TEU, and April will see a 3.2% rise to 1.35 million TEU.

August, September and October are the busiest months of the year as retailers bring merchandise into the country for the holiday season, and volume for the three months was up 3.6% at 4.2 million TEU.

However, this volume does not correlate directly with sales, with the NRF forecasting holiday sales will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.

“After a strong kick-off on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday season is looking good and these numbers reflect that,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy.

“Nevertheless we narrowly avoided what could have been a long-term disruption with the strike in Los Angeles and Long Beach, and don’t want to run that risk on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. NRF is continuing to urge labor, management and lawmakers to do whatever is necessary to keep our nation’s ports running smoothly.”

An eight-day strike at the US’s largest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach ended on December 5. But there are concerns further disruption will take place at ports on the East Coast and Gulf Coast when a contract expires on December 29.

A report last week highlighted the devastating economic consequences of such a situation, as inventory depletion, rerouting, hoarding and price speculation could ripple through supply chains of global companies.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the LA/Long Beach strike shifted some cargo into December, but would not have a significant effect on net volume for the year.

“As we look ahead into the coming months of 2013, the main threat to cargo flows through the ports would be a strike on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. There is little option of diversion,” he said.

For more fashion and apparel industry news, go to just-style.com

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