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US container import volumes to peak in August at record 2.37 million TEUs: NRF

Highlights

Supply chain faces further strain amid restocking for year-end holidays

Import volumes to ease from August peak in September-December

US container port infrastructure is facing heavy strain in August as the country is expected to receive a record volume of goods cargoes amid restocking by retailers ahead of year-end holidays, the National Retail Federation said Aug. 9.

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The US import volume for August is forecast at 2.37 million twenty-foot equivalent units, the highest monthly count since the NRF began tracking imports in 2002. The previous record was in May at 2.33 million TEUs before import volumes eased to 2.15 million TEUs in June and are projected at 2.22 million TEUs for July.

August is the start of the traditional peak season for shipments from manufacturers in East Asia to retailers in North America in preparation for the year-end holiday shopping season, but the biggest surge in imports is expected to come early in the August-November peak season window in order to mitigate the impact of delays across the supply chain, the NRF said.

"The strain of the continuing economic expansion is putting considerable pressure on the logistics supply chain," said Ben Hackett, founder of trade consulting firm Hackett Associates. "We're seeing a lack of shipping capacity combined with port congestion as vessels line up to discharge goods from both Asia and Europe. Delays are stretching to landside as port terminals struggle with space shortages."

Import volumes are expected decline after August to 2.21 million TEUs in September, 2.15 million TEUs in October, 2.07 million TEUs in November and 2.02 million TEUs in December, the NRF said.

Record US import volumes that exceeded carrying capacity among shipping lines lifted container freight rates from North Asia to North America to all-time highs. Platts Container Rate 5 – North Asia to East Coast North America – was assessed at $8,900/FEU on Aug. 9, while rates from North Asia to West Coast North America were assessed at $7,900/FEU.