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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. ports' container volume will dial down in first half, report says


After falling to its lowest level in four years in 2008, cargo volume at the nation's major container ports is expected to decline at a faster rate in 2009’s first half, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and IHS Global Insight.

Volume for the first six months is forecasted at 6.6 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), which would represent an 11.8 percent decrease from volume in 2008’s first half.
"2008 was one of the most challenging years retailers have seen, and all indications are that 2009 won't be any better," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, cargo volume at the ports reflects retailers' anticipated sales, and NRF expects that sales will get worse before they get better.”
Based on activity at ports in Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; Houston; New York/New Jersey; Hampton Roads, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; and Savannah, Ga., Port Tracker estimates January volume at 1.04 million TEUs, which would represent a 15.8 percent decrease from January 2008’s total.

Volume in February — traditionally the slowest month of the year— is forecasted at 1 million TEUs, down 18.7 percent, while volume in March is projected at 1.08 million TEUs, down 7 percent. Volume then is expected to total 1.14 million TEUs in April (down 10.1 percent), 1.16 million TEUs in May (down 11 percent) and 1.19 million TEUs in June (down 8.5 percent), according to Port Tracker.

"Import container traffic is projected to be weak through June because of the underlying reduced demand during the global recession,” said IHS Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/9/2009