National Retail Federation: Import Cargo To Hit 2 Million Containers For First Time Since Last Fall

WASHINGTON — APRIL 9, 2024 — Next month’s inbound cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to top 2 million units for the first time since last fall as imports grow despite new supply chain challenges, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“U.S. imports are continuing to increase despite another disruption impacting U.S. ports,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “As retailers have adjusted to limits on the use of the Panama Canal and the Red Sea, we now face the shutdown of the Port of Baltimore to vessel traffic. While it is not expected to have a national impact, the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge shows the ongoing need for flexibility and resiliency in every company’s supply chain. We are monitoring the situation closely as retailers who are affected adjust their shipping plans to ensure cargo is getting to where it needs to be.”

The Port of Baltimore has been closed to vessel traffic since a container ship struck a major bridge on March 26, collapsing the span and blocking the only shipping channel into the harbor. Baltimore is not included in Global Port Tracker’s national totals because its data is reported later than other ports, but the shutdown is having a regional impact and cargo that would normally go there is being diverted to other East Coast ports. The port handled 48,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units – one 20-foot container or its equivalent – in January.

“The Baltimore bridge accident will likely shift container imports and exports to New York/New Jersey, Virginia and other surrounding ports until a shipping channel is cleared, perhaps as soon as within a couple of months,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.

Meanwhile, carriers have rerouted around the Red Sea and Suez Canal after attacks on vessels earlier this year while adding additional vessels and increasing vessel speed to make up for longer voyages. “Doing so has resulted in relatively stable supply chains within a short period of time,” Hackett said. “A word of caution, however, is that any further pressures on capacity could seriously impact the market.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.96 million TEU in February, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 0.3% from January but up 26.4% from the same month last year, when many Asian factories were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Ports have not yet reported March’s numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 1.8 million TEU, down 7.8% from February because of Lunar New Year’s impact but up 11% year over year. April is forecast at 1.93 million TEU, up 8.4% year over year, and May at 2.04 million, up 5.5% and the highest level since 2.06 million last October. June is forecast at 2 million TEU, up 8.9%; July at 2.04 million TEU, up 6.6%, and August at 2.09 million TEU, up 6.9%.

The first half of 2024 is expected to total 11.7 million TEU, up 11% from the same period last year. Imports during 2023 totaled 22.3 million TEU, down 12.8% from 2022.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast. The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at

Posted: April 9, 2024

Source: National Retail Federation (NRF)