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Rail News: Intermodal

North American container volume reaches four-year high in 2Q, but ports expected to post container volume decline for full year


In the second quarter, North American domestic container volume reached 889,305 units, up 8.1 percent compared with second-quarter 2007's total — the highest growth rate since second-quarter 2004 and the 11th-straight quarter container volume posted a year-over-year gain, according to the Intermodal Association of North America's latest "Intermodal Market Trends & Statistics" report.

Trailer volume increased 1 percent to 528,836 units — the sector's first quarterly gain in three years — and total domestic equipment climbed 5.4 percent to 1.4 million units.

Trailer growth was driven by an 11 percent gain in 53-foot trailers and 5 percent gain in 48-foot trailers, while domestic container growth was fueled by an upsurge in 53-foot containers which now account for 91 percent of total volume vs. 86.5 percent in 2007, the report states.

Meanwhile, international container volume totaled 2.1 million units, down 5.9 percent compared with second-quarter 2007's total.

However, container volume at major U.S. ports is projected to decline 4 percent for all of 2008 vs. 2007 because of the sluggish economy, according to the latest monthly "Port Tracker" report issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Global Insight. Volume will total about 15.8 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) vs. 2007's 16.4 million TEUs.

"Cargo volume reflects consumer demand as retailers work to keep inventory as tight as possible in order to keep supply and demand in balance," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a prepared statement.

In June, U.S. ports handled 1.3 million TEUs, down 0.3 percent from May's total and 10.3 percent from June 2007's level. Port Tracker projects July volume to total 1.37 million TEUs, which would represent a 5.2 percent decrease from July 2007's total.

August volume will drop 2.7 percent, September volume will decline 4.9 percent and October volume will rise 1.1 percent — to a 2008 peak of 1.46 million TEUs, the report predicts. Volume then will drop slightly (by 0.3 percent) in November, but increase 3.4 percent in December.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/11/2008