After a record-setting spring, imports at major container ports are seen slowing significantly for the rest of the year but 2022 should still see a net gain over 2021, the National Retail Federation says.
“Retail sales are still growing, but the economy is slowing down and that is reflected in cargo imports,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Lower volumes may help ease congestion at some ports, but others are still seeing backups and global supply chain challenges are far from over.”
Ports covered by NRF’s Global Port Tracker handled 2.25 million TEU in June, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 5.9% from May’s 2.4 million TEU – the largest number of containers imported in a single month since 2002 – but up 4.9% year over year.
June’s results brought the first half of the year to 13.5 million TEU, a 5.5% increase year over year.
“The heady days of growth in imports are quickly receding,” said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, who created the Global Port Tracker. “The outlook is for a decline in volumes compared with 2021 over the next few months, and the decline is expected to deepen in 2023.”
Ports have not yet reported July’s numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.26 million TEU, up 3.2% year over year. August is forecast at 2.2 million TEU, down 3%; September at 2.15 million TEU, up 0.4%; October at 2.13 million TEU, down 3.9%; November at 2.06 million TEU, down 2.7%, and December at 2.03 million TEU, a decline of 3%.
Those numbers would bring the second half of the year to 12.8 million TEU, down 1.5% from the same period last year. But 2022 overall is expected to total 26.3 million TEU, up 2% from last year’s annual record of 25.8 million TEU.