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Cargo Shipments Rise as Retailers Go Back-to-School

July 8, 2015
Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 7.3% as retailers stock up for the back-to-school season.

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 7.3% this month over the same time last year as retailers stock up for the busy back-to-school season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and consulting firm Hackett Associates.

“Now that West Coast ports have recovered from the congestion caused by the recently settled contract dispute, retailers are focused on the back-to-school season to ensure that parents can find the supplies and clothing their children need for the fall,” says Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retailers are continuing to work with their business partners to address ongoing congestion issues impacting their supply chains. Part of the solution,” he suggests, “will be Congress passing a long-term highway bill that addresses freight movement.”

A new five-year contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was ratified in May. The previous contract expired last July.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in May, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 6.2% from April and 8.2% from May 2014. One TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

June was estimated at 1.56 million TEUs, up 5.5% from 2014. July is forecast at 1.6 million TEUs, up 7.3%; August also at 1.6 million TEUs, up 5.5%; September at 1.63 million TEUs, up 2.4%; October at 1.61 million TEUs, up 3.5%, and November at 1.5 million TEUs, up 7.5%.

The first half of 2015 was estimated at 8.8 million TEUs, up 6.4% over the same period last year.

The increases in imports are in line with other improving economic indicators, says Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May, suggesting that the level of confidence about the future has improved,” Hackett observes. “This is very positive news.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los 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.