Cargo volume continues drop at the ports

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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 in November, leaving 2008 on track to be the slowest year since 2004 as the US economic downturn continues, 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 Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Units 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.

One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent, according to the report.

US ports surveyed handled 1.36 million TEU in October, the most recent month for which numbers are available. October is the traditional peak of the shipping season as retailers stock up on holiday merchandise. While October's figure was up 2.4% from September, it was 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. The January forecast is 1.17 million TEU, down 4.9% from a year earlier, and February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.11 million TEU, down 9%.

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