Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Annual U.S. Retail Container Port Traffic Hits Four-Year Low

Annual U.S. Retail Container Port Traffic Hits Four-Year Low
(Transport Intelligence)

Year-over-year cargo volume at major retail container ports in the U.S. fell for the 17th straight month in December, completing the slowest year since 2004 as the national economic downturn continued, according to the latest monthly Port Tracker report released yesterday (January 8) by the U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF) and IHS Global Insight.

The report stated that volume for the year was estimated at 15.3m TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), compared with 16.5m TEUs in 2007. That figure, it continued, would represent an annual decline of 7.1% and the lowest total since 2004, when 14m TEUs had moved through the ports.

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold commented: "2008 was a slow year for the ports for the simple reason that it was a slow year for retail sales. We don't expect a significant increase in traffic at the ports until retail sales return to normal levels and even then retailers will be careful not to over-stock."

The NRF reported that the U.S. ports surveyed had handled 1.23m TEUs in November, the last month for which actual numbers were available. That was down 10.3% from the 2008 peak of 1.37m TEUs set in October and down 11.8% from November 2007. December was estimated at 1.2m TEUs, down 6.4% from December 2007. "The last month to see a year-over-year increase was July 2007, when the 1.44m TEUs moved through the ports was up 3.4% from July 2006."

Looking ahead, the NRF said this month (January) was forecast at 1.16m TEUs, down 6.3% from January 2008, and February was forecast at 1.1m TEUs, down 11.1% from 2008. March was expected to be up 1.1% from a year earlier at 1.17m TEUs but April was expected to decline 2.6% from 2008 at 1.23m. May was forecast at 1.25m TEUs, down 4% from last year.

"Between the economy and the customary winter impact of the slow season, port traffic is very weak," said IHS Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham. "Port traffic is projected to continue to be very slow due to the underlying weakness in demand."

The U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker are Los 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.

Commentary: US retailers appear to be competing with thrifty buyers as Canadian Frenchies shoppers are complaining about reduced quality and selection at second hand clothing stores in The Maritimes originating at US over-stock liquidators.

No comments: