WASHINGTON — The coronavirus outbreak is expected to have a longer and larger impact on imports at major U.S. retail container ports than previously believed as factory shutdowns and travel restrictions in China continue to affect production, according to the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“There are still a lot of unknowns to fully determine the impact of the coronavirus on the supply chain,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “As factories in China continue to come back online, products are now flowing again. But there are still issues affecting cargo movement, including the availability of truck drivers to move cargo to Chinese ports.”
Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett added, “Now that we are in the coronavirus environment, uncertainty has expanded exponentially. Our projections are based on the optimistic view that by the end of March or early April some sort of normalcy will have returned to trade.”
In a separate NRF survey of members, 40% of respondents said they are seeing disruptions to their supply chains from the virus, and another 26% expect to see disruptions as the situation continues.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.82 million twenty-foot equivalent units in January, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 5.7% from December but down 3.8% from a year ago.
February was estimated at 1.42 million TEU, down 12.6% from last year and significantly lower than the 1.54 million TEU forecast before the coronavirus began to have an effect on imports.
March is now forecast at 1.32 million TEU, and the April forecast has been adjusted to 1.68 million TEU, down 3.5% from last year.
While the coronavirus makes forecasting difficult, the report calls for imports to jump to 2.02 million TEU in May, a 9.3% increase year-over-year, on the assumption that Chinese factories will have resumed most production by then and will be trying to make up for lower volume earlier.
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, provides historical data and forecasts for the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.
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