U.S. Container Imports On Track For Record-Setting Year


U.S. containerized imports are expected to set new monthly records from now into the summer as the country’s economy continues to recover from the pandemic, according to retail experts.

The National Retail Federation project record volumes for each of the first six months of the year, January through June, while the first half of 2021 as a whole is forecast at 11.5m teu, up 22.1% from the same period in 2020.

The import numbers reflect retailers’ expectations for consumer demand to the point that many factories in Asia that normally close for Chinese New Year this month are choosing to remain open to keep up with demand.

Record holiday season and numbers for 2020 demonstrate consumer optimism, with a surge in purchasing that has been sustaining for months, so that retailers are importing merchandise faster than ever.

February is historically the slowest month of the year for imports, both because of the lull between the holiday season and spring and because factories in Asia close for the Chinese New Year holiday.

But this February is forecast at 1.91m teu, up 26.3% year on year, with 25-30 container ships waiting to berth at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and with many Asian factories remaining open during the holiday to meet demand.

March is forecast at 1.93m teu, up an “unprecedented” 41% from March 2020, while April is forecast at 1.82m teu, up 13.3% year on year; May at 1.9m teu, up 23.8%, and June also at 1.9m teu, up 18.2%.

Retail sales during the November-December holiday season in 2020 hit a record $789.4bn, up 8.3% from 2019, and preliminary figures show retail sales for all of 2020 were up 6.8% year-over-year.

(Source: Lloyd’s List)