Retail Container Traffic Should Be Up 9% in April

Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to be up 9% in April over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and consulting firm Hackett Associates.

“These numbers are an indication that the economy is recovering and retailers are expecting continued increases in sales through the summer and beyond,” says Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “There are challenges ahead from rising prices for gasoline and other essentials, but inventories are under control and retailers are optimistic.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in February, traditionally the slowest month of the year and the latest for which actual numbers are available. That was down 8% from January but up 10% from February 2010. It was the 15th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

March was estimated at 1.2 million TEUs, an increase of 11% over March 2010. April is forecast at 1.24 million TEUs, up 9% from a year ago; May at 1.32 million TEUs, up 4%; June at 1.38 million TEUs, up 5%; July at 1.45 million TEUs, up 5%; and August at 1.54 million TEUs, up 8%.

The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.4 million TEUs, up 8% from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEUs, a 16% increase over 2009. Last year’s percentages were high because 2009’s 12.7 million TEUs was the lowest level seen since 2003.

“The economy is slowly on the mend, with many of the key short-term indicators providing positive directions,” says Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “Consumers are buoyed by falling unemployment and are somewhat freer with their money.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. 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.

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