US box ports see inbound traffic rebound.
US container ports are on track to report a 13% growth in inbound volumes this month, with double-digit increases expected to last through the summer as the economy continues to pull out of recession.
That is the latest forecast from the monthly Global Port Tracker report compiled by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
?These numbers show that retailers continue to anticipate improvements in the US economy,? said NRF vice-president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. ?This is very different from the past two years when merchants were continually cutting their imports in an effort to manage inventory.?
Although container lines are seeing some big increases in cargo volumes on major deepsea trades, they are reluctant to respond too quickly by reactivating laid-up tonnage, since the growth appears to reflect re-stocking rather than a recovery in consumer demand.
Maersk Line chief executive Eivind Kolding said last week the industry had been surprised by the strength of the upturn that started in December and continued through until the start of the Chinese new year holidays.
But Hackett Associates said it had been predicting an upturn since the middle of 2009.
Global Port Tracker estimates that US ports handled 1.08m teu in January, the latest month for which actual numbers are available.
That was down just under 1% from December as imports slowed after the holiday season, but up 2% from January 2009.
It was also the second month in a row to show a year-on-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-on-year monthly declines.
The February number is expected to be unchanged from January at 1.1m teu, but that would be a 29% increase the corresponding month of 2009 when volumes collapsed.
Global Port Tracker is forecasting throughput of 1.1m teu for March, up 13% from the previous year, with year-on-year growth rates of 19% for April as retailers begin to stock up for spring and summer: 17% for May and 25% for June.
Overall, inbound volumes handled by US ports in the first half of the year are projected to reach 6.9m teu, up 17% from last year"s corresponding figure of 5.9m teu.
Imports for 2009 totalled 12.7m teu, down 17% from 2008"s 15.2m teu and the lowest since the 12.5m teu reported in 2003.
First-half growth is down from the 25% increase forecast a month ago, but Global Port Tracker said this reflected statistical issues at west coast ports rather than a change in retailers" import intentions.
Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the US economy appeared to be in recovery rather than at the mid-point upswing of a double-dip recession.
?We are in a cautious but sustained growth cycle,? Mr Hackett said. ?Trade will grow and as a result of statistical comparison with the trough in 2009, the growth rates will appear to be healthy.?
Global Port Tracker, covers the 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.