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Headwinds as US Imports Build Toward August Peak Season

According to the recently released Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, the import cargo volume at major container ports in the USA is expected to increase and reach its peak in August this summer.


While this is a positive development, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has highlighted that despite a tentative contract agreement being reached at West Coast ports, retailers are closely monitoring labor disputes at ports in western Canada. Additionally, there is a potential Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service that could impact the situation.

In May, the US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.93 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units), showing an 8.5% increase from April but a 19.3% decrease compared to the previous year. Although June numbers have not been reported by the ports yet, Global Port Tracker projects a figure of 1.86 million TEU for the month, representing a 17.5% decline year over year. This would result in a total of 10.6 million TEU for the first half of 2023, marking a 22% decrease from the same period in 2022.


The forecast for July indicates 1.94 million TEU, reflecting an 11% decrease from the previous year, while August is expected to reach 2.03 million TEU, down 10.1% compared to the previous year. However, it would be the first month since October of the previous year to reach the 2 million TEU mark.


NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, Jonathan Gold, stated that although a tentative agreement has been reached at West Coast ports, it does not mean that supply chain disruptions have been completely resolved. He also mentioned that the port strike affecting Vancouver and Prince Rupert is not expected to significantly impact the US, but it could have repercussions for some US retailers who receive merchandise through Canada.


Furthermore, the ability to transport goods from US ports to stores could be affected if UPS and the Teamsters fail to resolve their differences before the contract expiration at the end of the month.


Gold emphasized the importance of all parties involved returning to negotiations and working towards a final agreement without engaging in disruptive activities. He stated that seamless supply chains are crucial for retailers, especially as they enter the peak shipping season for the winter holidays.



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