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Imports at the nation’s largest container ports are expected to grow dramatically during the first half of 2021 as increased vaccinations and continued in-store safety measures enable additional shopping options, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report.
“NRF [National Retail Federation] is forecasting what could turn out to be record retail sales growth in 2021, and retailers are importing huge amounts of merchandise to meet the demand,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a news release from NRF and Hackett Associates. “The supply chain slowdown we usually see after the holiday season never really happened this winter, and imports are already starting to grow again.”
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.06 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in January, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 2.3% from December as the holiday season came to an end. But with a 13% year-over-year increase, it was the busiest January since NRF began tracking imports in 2002 and the first time the month has ever topped the 2 million TEU mark, according to the report.
While final import numbers for both February and March are projected to be significantly higher than normal, year-over-year comparisons are difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.