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Rail News: Shippers

Retailers: Import slowdown continues

Jonathan Gold
Photo – National Retail Federation


Imports at the nation’s major container ports are expected to fall below last year’s levels for the remainder of 2022, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released this week by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"Consumers are still buying, but the cargo surge we saw during the past two years appears to be slowing down," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a press release.

Cargo levels are above pre-pandemic levels, but the rate of growth has slowed into negative numbers compared with unusually high volumes last year, Gold added.

Talks continue between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, whose contract expired July 1. Meanwhile, the freight railroads and seven unions continue to negotiate after recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Board appointed this summer were released. Both dockworkers and railroad workers remain on the job, but there are concerns about potential disruptions, NRF officials said.

"The number of vessels waiting to dock on the West Coast has been reduced to near-normal," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. "But with the switch of some cargo to the East Coast, congestion and pressure on the ports has shifted to the East Coast. The inland supply chain, particularly rail, continues to face difficulties that have resulted in the delay of containers leaving ports, causing terminal congestion that impacts the ability of carriers to discharge their cargo."

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.18 million 20-foot equivalent units — one 20-foot container or its equivalent — in July. That was down 3.1% from June and down 0.4% from July 2021 — only the third year-over-year decline in two years and the first since December 2021.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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