- COVID-19 will have a greater impact on U.S. imports than National Retail Federation (NRF) officials previously expected, according to a press release issued Monday. NRF's Global Port Tracker negatively adjusted previous predictions for TEUs coming into U.S. ports for March and April.
- The Global Port Tracker estimates U.S. imports for February will be down 12.6% year-over-year (YoY) — slightly higher than NRF expected just a few weeks ago. March will bring the largest drop in imports to 18.3% down YoY. Though the Port Tracker did not previously predict the outbreak would affect import volume as late as April, it is now forecasting April imports will be down 3.5% YoY, while May and June are projected to be slightly more than 9% up year-over-year.
- "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," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement.
The level of uncertainty regarding westward-bound freight's return to normal levels has increased exponentially according to Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. It is becoming clear, according to several experts and practitioners, that freight flows will not snap back to normal as quickly as they ground to a halt just a few weeks ago.
Sailings out of Asia have resumed relatively normal frequency, said Corey Ranslem, CEO of International Maritime Security Associates, maker of a data and intelligence platform for mariners. Though freight is moving again, a supply chain with at least somewhat diminished capacity due to the outbreak's impact on labor is bound to produce bottlenecks.
"If you look at all the way up around Shanghai and Tiajin, there were literally thousands of cargo ships just sitting there waiting to try to get into the port because during the height of it, the port capacity in China was way off. And It wasn't that the ports were closed. They just didn't have the people to move the containers," said Ranslem.
U.S. examples are popping up too. The Port of Baltimore closed for one day last week and will close again Thursday with reduced operating hours until further notice due to down volumes, according to the Maryland Port Administration.
And the delays may extend farther than port arrivals and offloading. Todd TeBrink, senior account executive from Alliance Shippers told Supply Chain Dive his freight has been delayed leaving the West Coast even after it arrives at port.
"A lot of the truckers are not wanting to go to the West Coast so we're seeing a lot of disruption in the capacity in pricing. We feel that it's going to be short term, and it's not going to last a really long time," said TeBrink.
Bob Klunk, COO of Project Venture told Supply Chain Dive modern supply chains are much easier to stop than they are to get going again.
"For example, where are all the containers and where are the empties? So, there will be a lot of secondary impacts like that that will take a while to iron out and ports will be either feast or famine. A lot of back hauls and empty runs and getting back in position," said Klunk.
Shefali Kapadia contributed additional reporting.