US retail imports are expected to remain below 2022 Ship’s crew

U.S. ports are seeing a surge in imported cargo volumes after a nearly three-year low in February, according to the Global Port Tracker report released Monday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. However, the report also predicts that import volumes will increase due to economic uncertainty and other supply chain challenges such as:

According to Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, import volumes in most ports have declined year-on-year since late last year, and falling exports from China underscore the slowdown in demand for consumer goods.

“With continued economic uncertainty, the implications for trade are clear,” said Hackett, who expects imports to remain below recent levels until inflation rates and excess inventories are reduced.

According to the Global Port Tracker report, US ports handled 1.62 million TEUs in March, up 5% from February but down 30.6% from the same period last year.

While April figures have not yet been reported, forecasts point to a 23.4% y/y drop to 1.73 million TEUs, with May and June forecasts at 1.83 million TEUs and 1.9 million respectively TEU lie. The third quarter of 2023 is expected to be 6 million TEU, down 7.2% year-on-year, and the first nine months of the year would be 16.5 million TEU, down 17.8% year-on-year is equivalent to.

Looking ahead to the first half of 2023, the NRF has now revised its forecast for retail imports down to 10.4 million TEU from the previous 10.8 million TEU. That would be 22.8% compared to the first half of 2022.

“Our forecast now calls for a larger fall in imports in the first half of this year than we forecast last month,” Hackett said.

“Consumers are still spending and retail sales are expected to increase this year, but we’re not seeing the explosive demand that we’ve seen over the past two years,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at NRF. “Port congestion has largely disappeared as import volumes have fallen, but other supply chain challenges remain, from truck shortages to empty containers being returned to terminals. We have welcomed recent reports of progress related to West Coast port labor negotiations, but will continue to monitor the situation closely pending ratification of a new agreement by both parties.”

Overall imports for 2022 totaled 25.5 million TEU, down 1.2% from the annual record set in 2021.

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