Posts Tagged ‘imports’

U.S. Imports Set Record in March

May 11, 2021

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.

Imports Expects to Stay High Through Summer

April 9, 2021

The National Retail Federation expects imports at U.S. container ports to continue to be robust through the end of the summer.

Imports began surging in summer 2020 in response to increased consumer demand.

The trade group said imports hit a low point in March 2020, when they fell to 1.37 million 20-foot equivalent units as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Imports hit a then-record 2.1 million TEUs in August 2020 as the economy began rebounding and peaked at 2.21 million TEUs in October 2020.

NRF expects import volume to remain at or above the 2 million-TEU mark for 11 out of 13 months by this coming August.

Before 2020, monthly imports had reached the 2 million-TEU mark only once, in October 2018.

The trade association predicted that May import volume will be 2 million TEUs, which would achieve a 30.6 percent year-over-year increase.

June volume is projected at 2.01 million TEUs, a 24.9 percent gain; July volume predicted to be be 2.04 million TEUs, a 6.5 percent rise; and August volume is forecast at 2.08 million TEUs, a 1.2 percent decline.

In a news release, NRF said the surge in imports has resulted in months of backups at ports, which have faced labor shortages because of COVID-19 infections and equipment shortages due to high volume.

Imports Expected to Keep Setting Records

February 11, 2021

Imports at the largest U.S. container ports are expected to continue setting monthly records into next summer.

The pace of imports accelerated in the second half of last year as the economy sought to recover from an economic downturn prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Retail Federal said.

NRT and Hackett Associates said retail sales during the November-December holiday season set a record $789.4 billion, up 8.3 percent over 2019 levels.

Preliminary figures show retail sales for all of 2020 were up 6.8 percent on a year-over-year basis.

U.S. ports covered by NRT’s Global Port Tracker handled 2.11 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in December, the latest month for which final numbers are available.

That was an increase of 0.2 percent over November 2020 and a 22.3 percent rise year over the same month in 2019. 

That brought the 2020 total to 22 million TEUs, up 1.9 percent over 2019’s 21.6 million TEUs and besting the record of 21.8 million TEUs recorded in 2018.

Although January results aren’t yet available, volume for the month is projected at 2.08 million TEUs, which would be a 14.6 percent increase over the same month in 2020.

Imports Set Record in August

October 14, 2020

The National Retail Federation reported last week that U.S. ports handled 2.1 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in August, a 9.7 percent increase from July and an 8 percent rise over 2019.

August saw the highest number of containers imported in a single month since the group began tracking imports in 2002.

The previous record was 2.04 million in October 2018 ahead of a scheduled tariff increase, NRF said in a news release.

Imports set records last summer as retail sales rebounded bounced back from the pandemic and merchants refilled inventories and stocked up early for the holiday season.

Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy said retailers are stocking up for the holidays earlier than usual because they expect consumers will shop early to avoid crowds and delays in receiving their orders.

Container Imports Expected to Continue Lagging

August 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession is expected to depress U.S. retail container imports this year to their lowest level in four years.

The National Retail Federal said this week that U.S. ports handled 1.61 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo in June, up nearly 5 percent compared to May but down 10.5 percent year compared to 2019 levels.

NRF expects monthly TEU totals between July and December to be between 1.59 million TEUs and 1.81 million TEUs.

The trade group’s forecast for each month would be down between 5.8 percent and 9.6 percent compared with the totals from 2019.

If those figures hold, the TEU total for 2020 would be 19.6 million TEUs, down 9.4 percent from last year and the lowest annual total since 19.1 million TEUs in 2016.

The first half of 2020 totaled 9.5 million TEUs, down 10.1 percent from last year.

August is expected to be the busiest month of the July-October “peak season” when retailers rush to bring in merchandise for the winter holidays, NRF officials said.

But with retailers ordering less merchandise the August would be the lowest peak for the season since 1.73 million TEUs in 2016 and falls far short of the 1.96 million TEUs peak in 2019.

Pandemic to Hold Down Imports Rest of 2020

July 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to continue to hold down imports at major U.S. retail container ports to levels that will be significantly below last year the National Retail Federation said.

In a news release, Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customers policy, said retailers are being conservative with the amount of merchandise they are importing this year.

U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.53 million 20-foot equivalent units  in May, down 4.8 percent from April and down 17.2 percent compared with 2019.

“U.S. imports are performing like a yo-yo, up one month and down the next with no apparent cause that can realistically point to either a crashing or booming economy,” said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, which, with the NRF, releases the monthly Global Port Tracker report.

Hacket said consumers may be starting to go out to eat and buy clothing again but retailers are unsure if current consumer activity is sustainable.

“The danger is that the rising number of virus infections is leading to renewed restrictions, which may cause demand to weaken again,” he said.

Imports for the six-month period from May through October are expected to total 9.9 million TEUs, a 0.7 percent improvement from the amount forecast a month ago.

Import Containers From China Surge Upward

June 12, 2020

Import traffic from China to the United States took a big jump in May with officials saying this has helped to mitigate the effects of volume declines at U.S. West Coast ports.

The Port of Long Beach said that during May its inbound twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers were up 7.6 percent compared to May 2019 and up 23.3 percent from April.

The e-newsletter FreightWaves reported that inbound container volumes from China are greater than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Officials said demand for Chinese goods has driven up freight rates in an unusual occurrence during a global pandemic.

“It has been a tough few weeks . . . unless you’re an ocean liner on the China-U.S. West Coast, where rates just shot up,” said Freightos Chief Marketing Officer Eytan Buchman.

Also pushing up rates in the China-U.S. shipping lanes has been tight capacity.

Rates for moving containers between the two countries have reached levels not seen since January 2019.

The surge in imports from China has caused what had been expected to be a weakening market through June to instead plateau at above the levels of February and March.

Pace of Imports is Picking Up

June 10, 2020

The National Retail Federation said this week that the effects of the economic recession prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic shows signs of easing its negative effect on U.S. retail container ports.

The trade organization said its projected imports still remaining below last year’s levels but not as much as previously forecast.

“The numbers we’re seeing are still below last year, but are better than we expected a month ago,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a statement. “It may be too soon to say, but we’ll take that as a sign that the situation could be slowly starting to improve. Consumers want to get back to shopping, and as more people get back to work, retailers want to be sure their shelves are stocked.”

U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.61 million 20 foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in April, down 7.8 percent from a year earlier, but up 17 percent from a four-year low logged in March and significantly better than the 1.51 TEUs previously expected.

May is estimated to be 1.58 million TEUs, down 14.6 year over year, but up from the 1.47 million forecast a month ago.

June is forecast at 1.56 million TEUs, down 12.9 percent from last year, but up from the previous forecast of 1.46 million TEUs, NRF officials said.

In a unrelated development, the Intermodal Association of North American has canceled its 2020 Intermodal EXPO due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was scheduled to take place Sept. 13-15 in Long Beach, California.

The next Intermodal EXPO has been set for Sept. 12-14, 2021, in Long Beach.

Last month, IANA reported first-quarter 2020 intermodal volumes fell 6.7 percent compared with first quarter 2019 volumes.

Container Imports Ticked Up in May

June 9, 2020

Trans-Pacific container traffic showed an unexpected uptick in May which could be good news for intermodal traffic.

However, it is unclear what prompted the increase although there are a number of theories as to what prompted it.

The uptick came after container traffic plunged in late March and throughout April amid an economic downturn linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now shipping companies are reinstating canceled sailing from China and are adding extra sailings.

During the depths of the pandemic, shipping lines had canceled 20 percent of sailings of container ships between China and the United States.

One theory for the uptick is that shippers canceled too many sailing after overestimating the near-term demand declines stemming from stay at home orders issued in numerous states.

Another theory is that consumer demand is stronger than predicted after states began relaxing and removing stay at home orders and allowed businesses and other activities to reopen.

Yet a third theory is that buyers of imported goods anticipate the collapse of a U.S.-China trade deal that could lead to new tariffs imposed by both countries.

At other times during the global trade war importers have ramped up buying in advance of tariffs and the same might be playing out now.

The e-newsletter FreightWaves repoprted market watchers saying this moving orders forward behavior is still being tempered by reduced demand due to the economic downturn.

Some observers have theorized that the upturn in shipping is temporary and will fall in early summer.

Import Traffic Continues Roller Coaster Ride

May 21, 2020

There are signs that imports to the U.S. are starting to pick up again, but it remains to be seen if that will continue or fall back later.

Container traffic to the United States, some of which is transported by rail once reaching a port, fell in March, rebounded somewhat in April but began falling again in May, reported an analysis by e-newsletter FreightWaves.

But now some importers are finding they pulled back too soon on their imports and need to step them up in light of the reopening of various businesses shut down this spring by state and local social distancing restricting seeking to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Shipping companies canceled 20 percent of their inbound container capacity to the U.S. in May and June after importers cancelled orders for goods.

At least two previously cancelled sailings have been reinstated due to an increase in imports and shippers report that most of their vessels are traveling the Pacific with full loads when they do sail.

Thus far shippers have canceled 10 percent of their planned sailings for July, but shipping business observers caution that it is too soon to say if this is a trend.

Maersk Line, the world’s largest carrier, expects volumes to be down as much as 25 percent through June and sees the third quarter of this year as unclear.

Observers say the combination of high unemployment, business bankruptcies and loss of consumer confidence could cause the up and down nature of imports to continue in the second half of this year.