That would be down from 16.5m teu in 2007 and the lowest annual throughput since 2005, when year-end volumes totalled 15.4m teu. Port Tracker’s earlier forecasts of year-end drops were 4% in August and 6% in September.
“This has clearly been a difficult year and we still have a challenging holiday season ahead of us,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Retailers are being careful to import only as much merchandise as they think they can sell.”
According to Port Tracker, the ports included in its survey handled 1.37m teu of inbound container traffic in August, the most recent month for which numbers are available. That was up 4% from the preceding month but down 5.9% from August 2007.
Its forecasts through to December were (changes from the corresponding 2007 month in parentheses): September – 1.34m teu (-9.2%); October – 1.38m teu (-4.3%); November – 1.28m teu (-6.9%); and December – 1.25m teu (-2.1%). It anticipates that this pattern will continue into 2009, forecasting declines of 1.6% (to 1.21m teu ) and 5.9% (to 1.15m teu) for January and February respectively.
The Port Tracker analysis, a joint undertaking of the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Global Insight, is based on a survey of inbound container volume, the availability of trucks and railroad cars to transport cargo from ports, labour conditions, and other factors that affect cargo movement and congestion at ten of the largest US container handling ports.