High port volumes expected for 2024’s peak season

Consumer spending will drive 2 million-plus TEUs of monthly loaded imports at the nation’s top ports through October, the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates project.

The nation’s top seaports should continue to expect elevated import levels this year as strong levels of consumer spending persist, the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said in a forecast this week.

The organizations forecasted that loaded import volumes at the top 12 container ports will remain above 2 million TEUs through October 2024, marking the highest sustained volumes in years. The groups credited continued consumer spending on goods as the cause of continued freight demand.

“We haven’t seen numbers this high for this many months in almost two years,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy said. “Regardless of what headlines about the economy might say, consumers are shopping and retailers are making sure they have merchandise on hand to meet demand.”

May is projected to be the first month to reach the 2 million TEU threshold since October 2023, a sign of a potential cargo recovery this year.

Such high volumes were rare prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with much of 2018 and 2019 falling below the threshold. Then, demand surged during the global health crisis, leading the top ports to handle well over 2 million TEUs every month, from August 2020 to October 2022.

However, the past few years have seen significantly lower volumes, with ports only surpassing the milestone during two months: September and October 2023, according to the report. Consumers may turn that trend around this year.

“We are still seeing a strong volume of goods flowing into ports despite global geopolitical turmoil, high interest rates and a slowdown in economic growth,” Hackett Associates Founder said, noting the surge has been spread across all three coasts though Gulf Coast imports have grown the most.

“The issue now is whether this surge will continue or level off,” Hackett said.

Source: Supply Chain Dive

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