- Import cargo volume at the nation's major container ports is expected to remain “well below” last year’s levels heading into this fall, according to a Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates
- The report projects that U.S. ports will oversee 10.4 million twenty-foot equivalent units in the first half of this year, falling 22.8% from 2022.
- “Consumers are still spending and retail sales are expected to increase this year, but we’re not seeing the explosive demand we saw the past two years,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement.
Economic uncertainty caused by high inflation, Federal Reserve interest rate hikes and bank failures has had an impact on trade, according to Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett.
“Our forecast now projects a larger decline in imports in the first half of this year than we forecast last month,” Hackett said in a statement. “Our view is that imports will remain below recent levels until inflation rates and inventory surpluses are reduced.”
Declining exports out of China also highlight a slowdown in demand for consumer goods, Hackett said. In a report released earlier this year, the NRF also pointed to inflation concerns as a cause for a decline in imports.
U.S. ports managed 1.62 million twenty-foot equivalent units in March, the latest month for which final numbers are available, down 30% from last year. The report estimates that U.S. ports will see 1.83 million twenty-foot equivalent units in May, a 23.5% drop year over year.
“Congestion at the ports has largely gone away as import levels have fallen, but other supply chain challenges remain, ranging from trucker shortages to getting empty containers back to terminals,” NRF’s Gold said. “We were pleased by recent reports of progress related to the West Coast port labor negotiations but will continue to monitor the situation closely until there is a new agreement ratified by both parties.”
Though this year’s imports are supposed to decline through September, the NRF predicted in a previous report that the gap between last year and this year will narrow over the summer.