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Rail News: Intermodal

'Port Tracker' report: U.S. container volume to finish year with a thud


Container volume at major U.S. ports will decline 6.5 percent this year compared with 2007 because merchants are carefully managing inventories in response to the sluggish economy, according to a forecast in the latest monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Global Insight.

Volume is projected to total 15.43 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) by year's end vs. 2007's 16.5 million TEUs. The current estimate is down from 15.5 million TEUs NRF and Global Insight projected in September. If the most recent 2008 projection holds, the annual total would be the lowest since 2005, when the ports handled 15.4 million TEUs.

"This has clearly been a difficult year and we still have a challenging holiday season ahead of us," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in the report. "Retailers are being careful to import only as much merchandise as they think they can sell."

In August, U.S. ports surveyed in the report handled 1.37 million TEUs, up 4 percent vs. July's total but down 5.9 percent compared with August 2007's volume.

The report estimates that September's volume — which hasn't yet been calculated — will drop to 1.34 million TEUs, down 9.2 percent compared with September 2007's total. October's volume will total 1.38 million TEUs, down 4.3 percent year over year; November's will reach 1.28 million TEUs, down 6.9 percent; and December's will total to 1.25 million TEUs, down 2.1 percent.

Next year, January's and February's volume is projected to total 1.21 million TEUs and 1.15 million TEUs, respectively, down 1.6 percent and 5.9 percent year over year, the report states.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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