A new Global Port Tracker report predicts an increase in inbound cargo volume in the U.S. The report, released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, shows that monthly inbound cargo should climb above 2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) through this summer and into the early fall.

“We haven’t seen numbers this high for this many months in almost two years,” said Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president of supply chain and customs policy. “Regardless of what headlines about the economy might say, consumers are shopping, and retailers are making sure they have merchandise on hand to meet demand. The supply chain has adjusted to recent disruptions, and retailers will work to keep the flow of goods moving smoothly as the back-to-school and holiday seasons approach.”

In March, U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.93 million TEU, the equivalent of one 20-foot container or its equivalent, down 1.4 percent from February, but up 18.7 percent from March 2023, following a reduction in Asian exports due to the Lunar New Year shutdowns.

“Even with a shift in spending from goods to services, U.S. consumers continue to spend on goods,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said, noting a recent downturn in containerized products like furniture, clothing and electronics. 

Global Port Tracker projects April will see 1.96 million TEU in inbound cargo, up 10 percent year-over-year. May is forecast to see 2.06 million TEU, up 6.8 percent year-over-year, to tie last October for the highest level since 2.26 million TEU in August 2022. 

Meanwhile, June is forecast to see 2.03 million TEU in inbound cargo, up 10.7 percent from the same month last year. July is predicted to slip slightly to 2.02 million TEU, up 5.5 percent, while August will see a slight increase to 2.1 million TEU, up 7.1 percent. September is expected to reach 2.04 million TEU, up 0.5 percent.

Monthly volume has reached the 2 million TEU mark only twice since a 19-month streak that ended in October 2022.

The first half of 2024 is expected to total 11.9 million TEU, up 13 percent from the same period last year. Imports during 2023 totaled 22.3 million TEU, down 12.8 percent from 2022.

“We are still seeing a strong volume of goods flowing into ports despite global geopolitical turmoil, high interest rates and a slowdown in economic growth,” said Hackett. “There has been a surge of container imports on all three coasts, with the strongest being the Gulf, followed by the Pacific and the East Coast. The issue now is whether this surge will continue or level off.”