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Published: 27 November 2009      

US retail container volume could see increases in 2010

Import cargo volume at the US's major retail container ports could see its first year-over-year increases in more than two years beginning in early 2010

The forecast is made in the latest monthly Port Tracker report released on 23 November by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.

"This could be the turnaround we've been waiting to see for a long time," said NRF VP, supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold. "There are not enough data yet to establish a clear trend, but we're hoping that this is a sign of recovery."

US ports surveyed handled 1.14M TEU in September, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 3% from August and 16% from September 2008, marking the 27th month in a row to see a year-over-year decline.

Volume for October, traditionally the peak month of the year, was estimated at 1.17M TEU, down 15% from last year. November is forecast at 1.09M TEU, down 11% from last year, December at 1.06M TEU, flat compared with last year, and January 2010 is forecast at 1.03M TEU, down 3%.

The January figure would mark the 31st month of year-over-year declines, but the trend is forecast to be broken in February, when cargo is expected to total 973,872 TEU. The figure is below the 1M mark because February is the slowest month of the year, but would be a 16% increase over February 2009. March 2010 is forecast at 1.02M TEU, a 5% increase over March 2009.

The report now expects 2009 to end with a total volume of 12.7M TEU, a drop of 16.8% from last year's 15.2M TEU and the lowest since the 12.47M TEU imported in 2003.

"The second half of 2009 has continued to see declines from 2008's levels, but not as large as we saw during the first half of this year," said IHS Global Insight economist Paul Bingham. "These 'less bad' numbers are evidence that the industry is seeing early signs of recovery."

All US ports covered by Port Tracker - Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah and Houston - are rated "low" for congestion, the same as last month.


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