The so-called sequestration “cuts” (actually, a reduction in the amount of spending increases) will apparently have little to no effect at the nation’s major retail container ports this month. Import cargo volumes at the ports are expected to increase by 2.3% in March, compared to the same month a year ago, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are aware of the impact of the cuts on Customs operations at the ports and are working to plan accordingly so the impact on merchandise headed for the store shelves is minimized,” notes Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy.
In a closely watched battle-of-wills between the Obama Admininstration and Congressional Republicans, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been suggesting that any reduction to the federal budget could result in port staffing cutbacks, which could lead to a lengthening of Customs inspections of cargo containers.
However, according to Ben Hackett, founder of consulting firm Hackett Associates, “There may well be a slowdown in customs clearance [at the ports], but trade will continue to flow. It may cause terminal congestion if the backlog builds up, and that needs to be planned for in advance.”
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.33 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in January 2013, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 0.9% from December and 3.7% from January 2012. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
February, historically the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.16 million TEU, up 6.8% from a year ago. March is forecast at 1.27 million TEU, up 2.3% from last year; April at 1.35 million TEU, up 3.5%; May at 1.44 million TEU, up 5.5%; June also at 1.44 million TEU, up 4.2%, and July at 1.46 million TEU, up 3.2%.
The first six months of 2013 are expected to total 8 million TEU, up 4.3% from the first half of 2012. The total for 2012 was 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9% from 2011.