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Rail News: Intermodal

NRF: Coronavirus to affect imports more than initially expected


The coronavirus outbreak is expected to have a longer and larger impact on imports at major U.S. retail container ports than previously believed, as factory shutdowns and travel restrictions in China continue to affect production, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported Monday.

“There are still a lot of unknowns to fully determine the impact of the coronavirus on the supply chain,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release.

Although factories in China are returning to production, various issues continue to affect cargo movement, such as the availability of truck drivers to move cargo to Chinese ports, Gold said.

"Now that we are in the coronavirus environment, uncertainty has expanded exponentially," said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, who produces the monthly Global Port Tracker report for the NRF. "Our projections are based on the optimistic view that by the end of March or early April some sort of normalcy will have returned to trade."

Forty percent of respondents to a recent NRF survey indicated they're seeing disruptions to their supply chains as a result of the virus. Another 26 percent expect to see disruptions as the virus continues to spread.
Meanwhile, U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.82 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in January, a 5.7 percent increase from December but down 3.8 percent from unusually high numbers a year ago related to U.S. tariffs on goods from China.

February was estimated at 1.42 million TEUs, slightly above the 1.41 million TEUs expected a month ago but down 12.6 percent from last year and significantly lower than the 1.54 million TEUs forecast before the coronavirus began to have an effect on imports, NRF officials said.

March is forecast at 1.32 million TEUs, down 18.3 percent from last year and less than the 1.46 million TEUs expected last month or the 1.7 million TEUs forecast before the virus.

April, which had not previously been expected to be affected, is now forecast at 1.68 million TEUs, down 3.5 percent from last year and lower than the 1.82 million TEUs forecast last month.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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