Thursday, January 20, 2011

Report: Import Box Traffic to Continue Increases Through April

Following on the news of sizable gains in import container traffic at most major West Coast ports in 2010, analysts are predicting the upward trend will continue nationwide through the first four months of 2011, albeit at a slower pace.

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 8 percent in January over the same month in 2010, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report.

Produced for the National Retail Federation by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, the report covers the US ports of Long 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.

“While the economy clearly began to recover in 2010 and drove up cargo volume as retail sales improved, maintaining that momentum in 2011 could be difficult,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

“Consumers faced with continued high unemployment are expected to focus more on necessities than discretionary spending. Retailers will continue to carefully gauge consumer demand and adjust import levels accordingly.”

In addition to the 8 percent growth in import container traffic in January, the report predicts a 13 percent increase in import boxes during February, a 9 percent increase in March, a 7 percent increase in April and a 2 percent decrease in May.

“Our projections for 2011 remain firm, albeit not at the levels of the recovery rates of last year,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Growth in the upper single-digit levels can be expected, particularly on the West Coast.”

The major West Coast ports all reported significant 2010 calendar year increase in total container volumes: the Port of Long Beach was up 23.6 percent over 2009; the Port of Los Angeles gained 16 percent; the port of Oakland was up 13.9 percent; and, the Port of Seattle saw an astounding 34.6 percent increase.

In each case, total import containers handled played a major part in growth seen over 2009 levels. The Port of Long Beach reported a 23.4 percent increase in loaded inbound containers during 2010; imports at the Port of Los Angeles were up 12.8 percent; the Port of Oakland reported imports up by 14.5 percent; and, imports through the Port of Seattle increased 46.6 percent.