Copy of Imports to remain at near record levels for remainder of year


WASHINGTON – Imports at the nation’s congested container ports are expected to remain at near-record levels for the remainder of the year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Dockworkers are unloading ships as fast as they can, but the challenge is to move the containers out of the ports to make room for the next ship,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “We need better empty return procedures and more chassis, truck drivers, rail capacity and warehouse workers to keep the system moving.

“Retailers have enough inventory on hand to make sure shoppers won’t go home empty-handed this holiday season,” he added. “But there are still items sitting on the docks or waiting on ships that need to make it to store shelves and online sellers’ warehouses. Retailers want to make sure customers have product choices.”

Last week, more than 70 ships were waiting to dock at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the wait at Los Angeles has averaged two weeks over the past month. Those delays, in turn, can push back the vessels’ arrival at other ports. Some carriers have announced plans to divert to other locations, but congestion is building nationwide.

Disruptions that began in 2020 have continued through the current “peak season” for shipping when retailers normally stock up for the holidays, according to the NRF, but many retailers anticipated the challenge and began bringing in holiday goods months ahead of schedule to be sure sufficient inventory would be available.

Ports have not reported October numbers yet, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.19 million TEU, down 1.2% from October 2020. The year-over-year decline would be the first since July 2020, after which unusually high import volumes began to arrive when stores closed by the pandemic reopened and retailers worked to meet pent-up consumer demand and to stock up for the holidays.

Even with the year-over-year decline, October would be among the five busiest months on record since NRF began tracking imports in 2002. Busy cargo is expected to continue through the end of the year.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for the NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.


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