Monthly Import Cargo Continues to Rise Despite Supply Chain Challenges

"We’re experiencing the strongest surge in volume we’ve seen in two years, and that’s a good sign for what retailers expect in sales."

NRF Vice President Jonathan Gold

WASHINGTON – Monthly inbound cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is continuing to rise despite a variety of supply chain challenges, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Lulls between supply chain challenges seldom last long, and importers are currently looking at issues including high shipping rates, unresolved port labor negotiations and continuing capacity and congestion issues from the ongoing disruptions in the Red Sea,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Despite all of that, we’re experiencing the strongest surge in volume we’ve seen in two years, and that’s a good sign for what retailers expect in sales. Consumers can rest assured that retailers will be well-stocked and ready to meet demand as we head into the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said the latest numbers come as attacks on shipping in the Red Sea earlier this year have had an impact “beyond earlier expectations” because of lack of sufficient capacity to make up for longer voyages to avoid the region. Political support for higher and broader tariffs on imported goods is expanding. And worries over lack of a new contract with East Coast/Gulf Coast dockworkers is shifting some cargo to West Coast ports. All of those issues drive up prices for shipping and, in turn, consumers.

“The risks to global trade growth continue to increase,” Hackett said. “We are in a volatile situation with multiple pressures on the movement of goods, underpinned by continued inflationary pressures.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.08 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units – one 20-foot container or its equivalent – in May, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was up 3% from April and up 7.5% year over year, and was the highest number since 2.26 million TEU in August 2022. (The total includes estimates for the ports of New York and New Jersey, which have not reported TEU counts for May.)

Ports have not yet reported June’s numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected that volume rose to 2.1 million TEU, up 14.5% year over year. July is forecast at 2.21 million TEU, up 15.5% year over year; August at 2.22 million TEU, up 13.5%; September at 2.1 million TEU, up 3.5%; October at 2.05 million TEU, down 0.5%, and November at 1.96 million TEU, up 3.5%.

The first half of 2024 is expected to total 12.04 million TEU, up 14.4% from the same period last year. Imports during 2023 totaled 22.3 million TEU, down 12.8% from 2022.

The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting that 2024 retail sales – excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail – will grow
between 2.5% and 3.5% over 2023.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by 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. 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

As the leading authority and voice for the retail industry, NRF analyzes economic conditions affecting the industry through reports such as Global Port Tracker.

About NRF
The National Retail Federation passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail succeed. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., NRF empowers the industry that powers the economy. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, contributing $5.3 trillion to annual GDP and supporting more than one in four U.S. jobs — 55 million working Americans. For over a century, NRF has been a voice for every retailer and every retail job, educating, inspiring and communicating the powerful impact retail has on local communities and global economies. 

About Hackett Associates
Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.