Port Tracker now projects a 2008 year-end total of 15.3m teu, representing a decline of 7.1% and the lowest since 2004, when volumes totalled 14m teu.
The Port Tracker analysis is based on a survey of inbound container volumes, 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: Charleston, Hampton Roads, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Oakland, Savannah, Seattle and Tacoma. Export, empty, and domestic container traffic are excluded from the survey.
“As retailers face the most challenging holiday season in years, they are being careful with their inventory levels, and that means lower volumes at the ports,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Cargo volume isn’t a direct correlation with the dollar volume of sales, but it is a good indication of what retailers are thinking.”
According to Port Tracker, the ports included in its survey handled 1.36m teu of inbound container traffic in October, up 2.4% from the preceding month but down 5.4% from October 2007 and it estimates that November figures tally fell 8.5% from a year ago to 1.26m teu and forecasts a December drop of 5% to 1.22m teu.
Port Tracker also forecasts that the outlook for early 2009 is not encouraging, with no growth likely before March at the earliest.