NRF: U.S. Containerized Import Volumes Down by 20 Percent

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By The Maritime Executive 04-09-2020 09:46:05

The National Retail Federation is forecasting a dramatic, sustained reduction in container import volumes in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NRF predicts that import TEU volume will be down by about 20 percent every month through July, and will still be down by about 13 percent in August (year-on-year). 

“Even as factories in China have begun to get back to work, we are seeing far fewer imports coming into the United States than previously expected,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Many stores are closed, and consumer demand has been impacted with millions of Americans out of work. However, there are still many essential items that are badly needed and because of store closures cargo may sit longer than usual and cause other supply chain impacts.”

February import volumes were down by about seven percent, and while March numbers are not available yet, estimates show that March volumes were down by 21 percent year-on-year - reaching levels unseen since the 2015 ILWU labor dispute. 

"April is forecast at 1.44 million TEU, down 17.6 percent year-over-year; May at 1.48 million TEU, down 20.1 percent; June at 1.41 million TEU, down 21.4 percent; July at 1.61 million TEU, down 18.2 percent, and August at 1.72 million TEU, down 12.5 percent," wrote NRF in its monthly Port Tracker report. 

The report is prepared by the shipping consultancy Hackett Associates. The firm's founder, Ben Hackett, told the Reuters that the COVID-19 lockdown is having deep effects on the global supply chain. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic is unraveling the economy nationally and globally as most of the world moves toward a lockdown that entails the closure of significant portions of both the service and manufacturing industries," Hackett said. "With uncertainty about the length of the lockdown and extent of the pandemic, the second half may not be in better shape."