Imports Remain at Near Record Levels

The National Retail Federation said this week that imports at the largest U.S. retail container ports are expected to remain at near-record levels but could see a slight dip from last year’s unusually high numbers as congestion slows the movement of backed-up cargo.

“The cargo is there for larger gains at several ports but congestion issues are impacting fluid operations,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

“Ships will eventually get unloaded but the pressure is on for everyone to work together to get the containers out as quickly as possible.”

The NRF report said the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the loading of U.S.-bound ships, while shortages of equipment, labor and outbound truck and rail capacity continue to cause congestion at U.S. ports.

Nearly 75 ships were waiting to enter the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, up from around 25 a month earlier. The backups have begun spreading to East Coast ports, too.

U.S. ports covered by NRF’s Global Port Tracker handled 2.27 million twenty-foot equivalent units  in August.

That was up 3.5 percent from July and up 7.8 percent compared with the same period in 2020. It also tied March as the second-busiest month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.

May remains the busiest month on record at 2.33 million TEUs.

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