U.S. Imports Set Record in March

The National Retail Federation reported this week that Imports at U.S. container ports set a record this spring and volume during the first half of 2021 is expected to be a third higher than in 2020 as the economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. ports handled 2.27 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March, an increase of 21.2 percent over February.

That is a record for the number of containers logged during a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.

The previous record of 2.21 million TEUs was set last October.

March volume was up a record 64.9 percent over the same month in 2020 but the growth rate was artificially high because many Asian factories had shut down due to the pandemic at this point last year and most U.S. stores had been ordered to close.

First-half volume is forecast to be up 33.9 percent versus the same period in 2020. As with March, the growth is skewed because of the sharp decline in imports during the first half of 2020.

However, the projected six-month total of 12.7 million TEUs would put 2021 on track to beat 2020’s full-year total of 22 million TEUs, which was up 1.9 percent over 2019 despite the pandemic.

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