Imports at the nation’s most congested container ports are expected to grow modestly during the first half of 2022, but continued high volumes will keep up pressure, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
“We’re not going to see the dramatic growth in imports we saw this time last year, but the fact that volumes aren’t falling is a clear sign of continued consumer demand,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold says. “Last year set a new bar for imports, and the numbers remain high as consumers continue to spend despite COVID-19 and inflation. The slowdown in cargo growth will be welcome as the supply chain continues to try to adapt to these elevated volumes. Unfortunately, many experts expect ongoing disruptions throughout 2022 for a variety of reasons.”
- Congestion remains on both coasts, and the Port of Los Angeles alone has around 40 ships waiting to dock. As more ships arrive each day and delays mean some cargo won’t get unloaded until the following month, shifts in import patterns could be difficult to follow for the next few months.
- U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker are expected to handle 13 million TEUs – one 20-foot container or its equivalent – during the first half of 2022, up 1.5% over the 12.8 million TEU handled during the same period in 2021. By contrast, the first half of 2021 saw a record 35.7% increase over the unusually slow first six months of 2020, when many Asian factories and U.S. stores were shut down because of the pandemic.
“With Lunar New Year factory closings in Asia this month and the consequent drop in export production, North American terminals will have an opportunity to reduce existing congestion,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett says. “Nonetheless, backups cannot be erased quickly as long as terminals continue to face a lack of space brought on by the supply chain’s inability to efficiently transfer cargo out of the terminals to its end destinations. A shortage of equipment, worker availability and storage space at distribution centers and warehouses across the country remains problematic, as does the export of empty containers back to Asia.”