Port volume recovering from six-year low

| 9/21/2009

Cargo volume at major retail container ports is at its lowest level since 2003, but the numbers are better than previously projected according to the National Retail Federation.

Retail Federation experts are projecting import volume at 12.5 million containers for 2009 – down 17.7 percent from the 2008 volume of 15.2 million container units.

Things could have been worse, however. Just a few months ago, the same analysts were projecting the 2009 volume at 12.3 million container units.

“We’re starting to see a pattern where import levels are still below last year but they’re not as far below as they were just a few months ago,” Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement released Sept. 17.

“This matches up with other economic indicators that show the recession may be coming to an end.”

IHS Global Insight predicts that month-to-month import container traffic will peak for the year in October and enter a weaker phase through January.

Import volume in December is projected to decline by 2 percent from December 2008. Experts see that as significant because it will be the first single-digit decline in a year otherwise filled with double-digit losses.

One side effect of the overall decrease in import volume is that congestion continues to be rated “low” at nine major ports, including Los Angeles/Long Beach, Hampton Roads and Houston according to Port Tracker, the National Retail Federation’s forecasting publication.

– By David Tanner, staff writer