Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to return to normal growth rates in 2022, keeping total volumes at historically high levels, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
The forecast follows a year of unprecedented increases when imports saw year-over-year growth as high as 65% in some months during 2021. That was the result of increased consumer demand, retailers’ efforts to stock up to mitigate supply chain challenges, and comparisons against periods early in 2020 when many stores were closed because of the pandemic, the report said.
After those flurries, increases returned to single digits by last fall and should remain there this year. Nonetheless, volumes of about 2.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) or more expected during most months in the first half of 2022 would be near-records if the forecast bears out.
“Even with the holiday season behind us, supply chain challenges continue. The huge increases in imports we’ve seen have leveled out, but volume is still at high levels,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a release. “We hope the system will find a way to catch up, but there is much that remains to be done to clear out port backlogs and increase capacity throughout the supply chain. Amid all of this, the omicron variant is a wild card that could not only impact the supply chain workforce but once again drive more imports if consumers stay home and spend their money on retail goods rather than going out.”
Specifically, U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.11 million TEU in November, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 4.5% from October but up 0.5% year-over-year. Ports have not reported December numbers yet, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.18 million TEU, up 3.7% year-over-year. If they hold up, those numbers would bring 2021 to a total of 25.9 million TEU, a 17.9% increase over 2020’s record high of 22 million TEU that was set despite the pandemic.
The report provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.