August Cargo Volume Should be Highest Since Last Fall

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to hit its highest level in nearly a year this month as retailers stock up for the holidays, according to the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Port and package-delivery labor negotiations that threatened the supply chain at the beginning of the summer have been resolved and retailers are now focused on preparing for the all-important holiday season,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “There are always supply challenges to be faced but holiday merchandise is flowing into the country, and we expect to see a smooth shipping season ahead of the winter holiday shopping season.”

Labor and management at West Coast ports reached a tentative contract agreement in June, a 13-day port strike in western Canada that affected some U.S. retailers last month ended with a tentative agreement, and United Parcel Service and the Teamsters agreed on a tentative contract that avoided a potential strike. The Canadian labor agreement was ratified Friday, but the others are still going through their ratification processes.

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said double-digit year-over-year decreases in cargo volume have come even though consumer spending and U.S. employment have increased.

“Dollar figures for international trade show imports remain in a year-over-year decline and cargo volume shows the same,” Hackett said. “The discrepancy between rising growth in sales and declining cargo volumes is happening because retailers are working their way through inventory built up over the last 12 to 18 months. Cargo growth should resume as inventories are depleted.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.83 million 20-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in June, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That brought the first half of 2023 to 10.5 million TEUs, down 22 percent from the first half of 2022.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for the National Retail Federation 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.

The report is free to NRF retail members, and subscription information is available at or by calling (202) 783-7971. Subscription information for non-members can be found at