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A worker on a container crane at the Port of Los Angeles

Photo courtesy Port of Los Angeles

U.S. Container Imports to Maintain Strength into Peak Season

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1410
May 8, 2024

Inbound cargo volume at the United States’ major container ports is expected to stay above 2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) through the summer and into early fall, highlighting the strength of the U.S. economy and container shipping market.

The National Retail Federation’s latest Global Port Tracker report reveals the highest cargo numbers in almost two years.

“Despite what the headlines might say about the economy, consumers continue to shop, and retailers are ensuring they have sufficient merchandise to meet demand,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy. “The supply chain has adjusted to recent disruptions, and retailers aim to ensure the smooth flow of goods as we approach the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”

Ben Hackett, Founder of Hackett Associates, which produces the report for the NRF, noted that even with a shift in spending from goods to services, there is still a strong volume of goods flowing into ports. This is despite a recent downturn in containerized products like furniture, clothing, and electronics, along with global geopolitical unrest, high-interest rates, and slower economic growth.

“There has been a surge of container imports on all three coasts, with the Gulf leading, followed by the Pacific and the East Coast. The question is whether this surge will continue or level off,” said Hackett.

According to the report, U.S. ports handled 1.93 million TEU in March, a slight decrease from February but an 18.7% increase from March 2023.

The forecast for May is 2.06 million TEU, tying last October for the highest level since August 2022.

The report also anticipates that the first half of 2024 will total 11.9 million TEU, a 13% increase from the same period in 2023. This is a slight increase from the 11.7 million TEUs predicted for the first half in last month’s report.

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