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Imports into U.S. container ports hit a new record this spring and the volume in the first half of 2021 is expected to be a third higher than last year as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report published by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker processed 2.27 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March, the latest month for which final figures are available. This was up 21.2% from February and set a new record for the number of containers recorded in a single month since NRF started tracking imports in 2002. The previous record of 2.21 million TEUs was established last October.
March’s volume grew a record 64.9% year-over-year, but the growth rate was artificially high because many factories in Asia had closed due to the pandemic at this point last year and that most American stores were ordered to close.
The volume for the first half of the year is expected to increase by 33.9% compared to the same period in 2020. As in March, the growth is skewed due to the sharp drop in imports in the first half of 2020. But the total forecast on six months of 12.7 million TEUs would put 2021 on track to beat the total of 22 million TEUs for the year 2020, up 1.9% from 2019 despite the pandemic.