U.S. ports experience brief slowdown from last year, but imports remain high

The country’s major retail container ports have started to catch up on the freight backlog seen in recent months, but could see a further increase this summer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report published by the National Retail Federation (NRF). and Hackett Associates. .

“As we entered 2022, the biggest question was when the supply chain would return to normal,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, Jonathan Gold. “Unfortunately, we still don’t have a definitive answer. Congestion at west coast ports has eased, but congestion at some east coast ports has increased. Ports aren’t as overwhelmed as they were a year ago, but they’re still very busy moving near-record cargo volumes.

US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.11 million twenty-foot equivalent units (a 20-foot container or its equivalent) in February; the last month when the final figures are available. That was down 2.3% from January, but up 13% year-over-year.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said volumes remained high in February despite the closure of factories in parts of Asia for the Lunar New Year holidays as US ports could handle cargo from ships that were already waiting for a place.

“With West Coast ports still congested, there were plenty of containers to unload,” Hackett said. Likewise, Shanghai’s current near-shutdown due to COVID-19 precautions means fewer ships are leaving China, and “waiting on this side of the Pacific will help ease the pressure of ship arrivals at terminals.” of the Los Angeles area”. However, an influx of ship arrivals following the resumption of normal operations in China could lead to further congestion at US ports.

Ports have yet to report March figures, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.27 million TEUs, unchanged from the same month last year. April is forecast at 2.13 million TEUs, down 1.1% from last year, and May at 2.21 million TEUs, down 5.3% year-on-year. the other. Increases are expected to resume in June, which is forecast at 2.26 million TEUs, up 5.2% year-on-year. July is forecast at 2.32 million TEUs, up 5.6%, and August at 2.35 million TEUs, a 3.3% year-on-year increase that would establish a new record for the number of containers imported in a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002. The current record is 2.33 million TEUs in May 2021.

The first six months of 2022 are expected to total 13.1 million TEUs, up 2.5% year-on-year. Imports for 2021 totaled 25.8 million TEUs, an increase of 17.4% from the previous 2020 annual record of 22 million TEUs.