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Retail Container Traffic Expected To Rise 16% In September

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 16% in September, compared with the same month last year. However, 2010 has already hit its peak in July of this year, and numbers will decline through the remainder of the year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers have stocked up early on much of their holiday merchandise to avoid some of the supply chain disruptions seen earlier in the year,” Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy, said. “Cargo is still coming in, but the key question for sales will be what happens with employment and other factors that affect consumer confidence this fall. Retailers are hoping they’ve hit the right balance of supply and demand.”
U.S. ports handled 1.38 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 5% from June and 25% from July 2009. It was the eighth month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.
August was estimated at 1.35 million TEU, a 17% increase over last year. September is forecast at 1.32 million TEU, up 16% from last year; October at 1.3 million TEU, up 9%; November at 1.2 million TEU, up 11%; and December at 1.11 million TEU, up 2%. Cargo volume is expected to decrease slightly in January 2011, which is forecast at 1.06 million TEU, down 2% from January 2010.
July’s figures will likely stand as the peak for 2010, even though October is typically the highest volume month. The shift was mostly due to backlogs built up due to the lack of shipping capacity earlier in the year.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that importers anticipated the peak season and bought early, partly as a result of a fear of lack of capacity and containers but also as a means to avoid the hefty peak season surcharges announced by all the carriers,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “We remain cautious about growth over the next 12 months. The good news is that the influx of new capacity will continue to put downward pressure on freight rates.”

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