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US import volumes lowest for seven years

US import volumes lowest for seven years

According to Port Tracker, the surveyed ports handled only 847,832 teu of inbound container traffic in February, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was down 20.6% from January’s 1.07m teu and 31.3% less than February 2008’s 1.23m teu. That made February the 19th consecutive month of year-on-year decline. The last month to post an increase was July 2007.

“These numbers come during the slowest part of the annual shipping cycle, so they’re expected to be low, but they nonetheless show the severity of the current recession and its impact on the retail industry,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president. “The good news is that we’ve already seen the bottom for the year, and month-to-month numbers are already starting to climb. We’re still going to see double-digit declines compared with last year, but the size of the gap is starting to narrow.”

The first half of 2009 is now forecast at 5.9m teu, down from Port Tracker’s March forecast of 6.6mteu, and 21% less than the 7.5m teu seen in the first half of 2008.