US imports are expected to grow modestly during the first half of 2022, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released on February 9 by the National Retail Federation 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 said. “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.”
“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,” Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said.
In fact, the number of ships waiting to berth at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has dropped, for the first time since November, below 80, from a high a month ago of 109, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. The ports expect to further lower that number, thanks to the temporary slowdown in vessels arriving from Asia.
However, notes Hackett, “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 centres and warehouses across the country remains problematic, as does the export of empty containers back to Asia.”