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Container Traffic Slides on Factory Shutdowns Over Coronavirus

With coronavirus causing longer Lunar New Year shutdowns of factories in China, imports at major U.S. retail container ports are expected to see a sharper-than-usual drop this month, according to the Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and consulting firm Hackett Associates.

Further, the longer-term effects on container volume due to the virus, which has now led to more than 1,000 fatalities, have become difficult to gauge.

“February is historically a slow month for imports because of Lunar New Year and the lull between retailers’ holiday season and summer, but this is an unusual situation,” said NRF VP Jonathan Gold.

“Many Chinese factories have already stayed closed longer than usual, and we don’t know how soon they will reopen,” Gold continued. “U.S. retailers were already beginning to shift some sourcing to other countries because of the trade war, but if shutdowns continue, we could see an impact on supply chains.”

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said, “Projecting container volume for the next year has become even more challenging with the outbreak of the coronavirus in China and its spread. It’s questionable how soon manufacturing will return to normal, and following the extension of the Lunar New Year break, all eyes are on what further decisions China will make to control the outbreak.”

Currently, February container volume is forecast to be down 12.9% year-over-year at 1.41 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU), and March is expected to decline 9.5% year-over-year to 1.46 million TEU. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Global Port Tracker had forecast February at 1.54 million TEU and March at 1.7 million TEU.

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.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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