Retail sales declined 1.1 per cent across the US in July 2021, led by a drop in auto sales and declines in clothing and sporting goods. The drop was steeper than forecasters were expecting, and economists are now watching the US for further signs of a downturn in economic activity.
Container ports, however, continue to report strong numbers as importers start to bring in goods for the holiday season in record amounts. Virginia handled 293,126 TEU in July, up 32.6 per cent year on year and its second highest monthly total ever. Import boxes reached 142,963 TEU, up 35.3 per cent.
The Georgia Ports Authority reports Savannah handled 450,000 TEU in July, an increase of 25 per cent, while auto and machinery units at its Brunswick location grew to 61,470, up 39 per cent year on year.
'Consumer demand and the addition of extra loader vessels is driving a prolonged surge in volumes,' said GPA executive director Griff Lynch.
In South Carolina container volume at Charleston was up 38 per cent in July to 244,821 TEU, also the second busiest month ever for the port.
On the west coast, July container volumes grew at much lower percentages, mainly because west coast ports were first to get the surge in 2020 after economies started to open up. The Port of Long Beach handled 784,845 TEU in July, up 4.2 per cent year on year. Loaded export containers fell 20.7 per cent year over year to 109,951 TEU, while empties shipped out of Long Beach 'ballooned 22.8 per cent, to 291,955 TEU,' the port said.
'Ships arrived last month to move these empty containers out of the harbour and clear valuable terminal space as we handle historic amounts of trade,' said Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero. 'These boxes are a valuable commodity in the overstressed global supply chain. Our loaded exports are likely to rebound this month.'
Further up the coast at Seattle and Tacoma, the Northwest Seaport Alliance reports container volume reached 307,592 TEU in July, up 13.8 per cent year on year. Full imports grew 21.5 per cent, while full exports decreased 13.6 per cent.