U.S. Ports' Container Imports Climb in 2017


Published Jan 11, 2018 5:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The National Retail Federation says that 2017 was the biggest year ever for containerized imports at America's biggest retail ports. The total for the year is expected to top 20 million TEU, up by seven percent from last year's record 18.8 million TEU. 

The NRF's Global Port Tracker report looks at import volumes at the nation's busiest container ports, including LA, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York / New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston. It is compiled monthly by consultancy Hackett Associates. 

NRF noted that cargo volume changes don't necessarily correlate directly with sales. The association forecast that 2017 sales totals would rise by about three to four percent over 2016 levels, lower than the percentage increase for TEU volume -a reflection of the value of the containerized goods rather than the number of containers.

“Retail had a strong year fueled by growing wages, higher employment and a boost in consumer confidence,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers imported more merchandise than ever to meet demand for quality products at affordable prices, and growth is expected to continue in the year ahead.”

Annual reports from individual port authorities reflected NRF's numbers. Port of Virginia set a new annual volume record at 2.8 million TEU, a seven percent increase over last year. Port Everglades reported a four percent increase over 2016 at just over the one million TEU mark. Port of Oakland reported a record 2.4 million containers, up four percent from last year. In December, Port of Houston forecast a total of 2.4 million TEU for the year, showing 14 percent growth for the first 11 months of 2017 - all despite the impact of Hurricane Harvey.