Cargo volume at US ports continues fall

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Year-over-year cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to fall for the 16th straight month as of November, leaving 2008 on track to be the slowest year since 2004, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight.

Volume is projected to total 15.3 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEU) for the year, compared with 16.5 million TEU in 2007. The numbers represent a decline of 7.1% and the lowest total since 2004, when 14 million TEU moved through the ports.

“Retailers understand we are in tough times and are making sure they aren't over-ordering product,” said Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chains and customs policy for the NRF. “They want to have the right amount of stock to meet consumer demand.”

He added that the continued downward trend in the next few months reflects retailers' forecasting of consumer spending.

US ports surveyed handled 1.36 million TEU in October, the most recent numbers, down 5.4% from October 2007. November was estimated at 1.26 million TEU, a decrease of 8.5% from November 2007. The last month to see a year-over-year increase was July 2007, when the 1.44 million TEU moved through the ports, an increase of 3.4% over July 2006. The forecast for December is 1.22 million TEU, a 5% decrease from December 2007.

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