The National Retail Federation reports that imports hit a new record in May at U.S. ports, and despite concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy and potential further supply chain disruptions, it expects imports to have capped at high levels the remainder of 2022. The retail trade association predicts imports will approach 25 million TEUs at the end of 11 months, putting them on track for another record year in 2022.
“Cargo volume is expected to remain high as we head into the peak shipping season, and it is essential that all ports continue to operate with minimal disruption,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of the chain. procurement and customs policy at the NRF. “Supply chain challenges will continue throughout the year, and it’s especially important that workers and management at West Coast ports stay at the negotiating table and reach an agreement.”
U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report handled 2.4 million TEUs in May, setting a new record for the number of containers imported in a single month in the 20 years the NRF has tracked imports. May’s total rose 6% from April and 2.7% year-on-year, the report said. It surpassed the previous record of 2.34 million TEUs calculated by the NRF for March 2022.
The NRF highlights two factors contributing to the May record. They said ports have seen increased activity this spring as a slowdown in freight from Chinese factories shut down by COVID-19 has given port operators a chance to clear accumulated congestion. Retailers were also bringing in seasonal goods and importing other goods early to avoid any problems with ongoing contract negotiations for stevedores at west coast ports.
“Congestion of ships waiting to dock on the west coast has eased, and we expect to see the same on the east coast as carriers begin to return to their normal port call habits,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates who prepares the monthly report. “After a short period of decline, freight rates are on the rise again as congestion in Europe and idle ships there take capacity out of traffic.”
The Global Port Tracker expects June imports to be slightly down from May at 2.25 million TEUs, but this level will increase by 4.8% compared to 2021. They expect imports in the first half of the year to total 13.5 million TEUs, a 5.4 percent year-over-year increase.
For the second half of 2022, they expect July to rebound to 2.31 million TEUs before monthly volumes plateau for the rest of the year. The project foresees monthly volumes between 2.06 and 2.26 TEU.
The NRF notes that the year-on-year declines in the second half of the year contrast with unusually high numbers during the same period in 2021. Despite slowing growth, they estimate that the full year is still expected to achieve a net increase. on 2021.