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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Major U.S. ports' container volume might finish year on high note, 'Port Tracker' predicts


In July, major U.S. ports handled 1.1 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up 8 percent from June’s level but down 17 percent from July 2008’s volume — the 25th-straight month to register a year-over-year decline, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) and IHS Global Insight’s latest “Port Tracker” report.

August port volume is estimated at 1.13 million TEUs, which would represent a 17 percent decline from August 2008’s level, the report — which is based on a survey of 10 major ports — states. Volume also is estimated to fall 18 percent in September to 1.11 million TEUs; 17 percent in October to 1.14 million TEUs; 13 percent in November to 1.07 million TEUs; and 2 percent in December to 1.04 million TEUs.

Port Tracker now projects 2009 port volume to total 12.5 million TEUs by year’s end, a 17.7 percent drop from last year's level and the lowest annual volume since 2003, but a slight increase from the 12.3 million TEUs forecasted a month ago. NRF and HIS Global revised their latest projection to reflect an anticipation of higher imports for the remainder of the year “as retailers anticipate that economic conditions will begin to ease,” the report states.

"We're starting to see a pattern where import levels are still below last year, but they're not as far below as they were just a few months ago," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a prepared statement. "This matches up with other economic indicators that show the recession may be coming to an end."

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More News from 9/21/2009