Ocean Cargo Container Slump Continues

The estimated 1.36 million twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) volume level is down from the 1.46 million TEUs reported by the ports surveyed in October and is off 3.5% from the same month in 2006. ā€œIf the estimate holds true when actual numbers come in, it will mark the fourth month in a row that cargo failed to meet last year's levels,ā€ says the report. For comparison, August 2007 was off 1.4%, September was down 1.9%, and October was 3.5% lower than the record high 1.51 million TEUs set in October 2006.

"All covered US ports are operating without congestion from the harbors to the gates and are rated low for congestion through spring," says Paul Bingham, economist for Global Insight.

"Retailers are carefully managing their inventories so that they won't be forced into unplanned discounts," adds Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

October is the traditional peak month for retailers to stock up, but according to the numbers Global Insight is seeing, September was 2007's peak shipping month.

Volumes will continue to trend downward through February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, says Global Insight. Levels should be above the previous year in most months, however. The forecast levels for December are 1.34 million TEUs, up 2.6% from December 2006. January 2008 should be 1.1% ahead of January 2007 at 1.31 million TEUs. February 2008 is forecast at 1.23 million TEUs down 6.1% from the same month in 2007. March will be 6% ahead of 2007 at a monthly forecast volume of 1.35 million TEUs. April is expected to reach 1.43 million TEUs, up 7.8% from the prior year.

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