After a record-setting spring, imports at the nation’s major container ports are expected to slow significantly for the remainder of the year. However, 2022 should still see a net gain over 2021, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retail sales are still growing, but the economy is slowing down, and that is reflected in cargo imports,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Lower volumes may help ease congestion at some ports, but others are still seeing backups, and global supply chain challenges are far from over. Our biggest concern is the potential for disruption because of separate labor negotiations at the West Coast ports and the freight railroads. Concluding both sets of negotiations without disruption is critical as the important holiday season approaches.”
The contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association expired July 1, and many retailers brought in cargo early and shifted to East and Gulf Coast ports to avoid any potential disruptions related to contract negotiations, with early shipments helping drive second-quarter volumes. The freight railroads and their union are now working with a Presidential Emergency Board to resolve their contract discussions, which have been ongoing for two years. In addition, the Port of Oakland was briefly shut down in late July amid protests by independent truckers over a new state law aimed at eliminating independent owner-operators.