US supply chain struggles to keep up with demand as TEU traffic booms

Supply chains in the US are struggling to keep up with consumer demand as the country’s ports saw record traffic in April 2021, according to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The biggest gateways in the US handled approximately 2.15 million TEU in April, by far the busiest on record and a 33.4% increase year-on-year (YoY).

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said supply chains are finding it difficult to keep up with demand and are reaching full capacity.

“A number of vessels taken out of service when volumes were low remain in drydock while others are delayed in congested ports, which face a lack of manpower both because of COVID-19 illnesses and the tight labor market,” Hackett said.

“Many people remain hesitant about returning to work, affecting ports, rail, trucking and distribution centers.”

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said supply chains are “working overtime” to meet demand.

“There’s no shortage of demand from consumers, but there continue to be shortages of labour, equipment and shipping capacity to meet that demand.

“Supply chain disruptions, port congestion and rising shipping costs could continue to be challenges through the end of the year.”

April’s results followed 2.27 million TEU in March, which set the record for the most containers imported during a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002.

Data for May’s traffic is not available yet, but the NRF has predicted that US ports will carry 2.32 million TEU, which would be a 51.1% YoY increase and beath April’s monthly record.

In total, the NRF forecasted traffic of 12.8 million TEU in the first half of 2021, a 35.3% YoY increase, which would easily put the country on the path to surpassing the 22 million TEU it handled in the whole of 2020.

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