The US’ major container ports are forecast to see inbound cargo volume exceed 2 million units next month for the first time since last autumn, as import growth continues amid emerging supply chain obstacles, according to the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

A significant development impacting the logistics sector is the recent closure of the Port of Baltimore. The port ceased vessel operations following an incident on March 26, where a container ship collided with a major bridge, resulting in its collapse and the obstruction of the sole shipping channel into the harbour, as per the report.

US ports’ inbound cargo volume is expected to exceed 2 million units next month, a first since last autumn.
The Port of Baltimore’s closure after bridge collapse has disrupted regional logistics.
Despite challenges, including rerouted shipping due to Red Sea and Suez Canal incidents, imports remain strong, with a YoY increase expected in H1 2024.

Although Baltimore’s figures are not included in the Global Port Tracker’s national totals due to delayed data reporting, the incident has caused regional disruptions, with diverted cargo flows to alternative East Coast ports. In January, the Port of Baltimore managed 48,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).

In response to separate incidents involving attacks on vessels in the Red Sea and Suez Canal earlier this year, shipping carriers have adjusted routes and increased vessel capacities and speeds to compensate for extended journey times.

The report detailed that US ports covered by the Global Port Tracker processed 1.96 million TEU in February, a slight decrease from January but a substantial 26.4 per cent increase from February of the previous year, influenced by the Lunar New Year holiday shutdowns in many Asian factories.

Although March figures are pending, the forecast suggests a decrease to 1.8 million TEU, a 7.8 per cent drop from February yet an 11 per cent increase on a year-over-year basis. Remarkably, April is predicted to see 1.93 million TEU, with May expected to reach a peak of 2.04 million TEU, the highest since the 2.06 million TEU recorded last October. The projections continue to be promising with June anticipated at 2 million TEU, July at 2.04 million TEU, and August at 2.09 million TEU.

For the first half of 2024, the total inbound cargo volume is expected to hit 11.7 million TEU, marking an 11 per cent increase from the same period in 2023. This is a positive turnaround from the total imports in 2023, which saw a 12.8 per cent decline to 22.3 million TEU compared to 2022.

“US imports are continuing to increase despite another disruption impacting US ports,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “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.”

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DP)

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