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NRF: Port backlog ends, imports return to normal


Washington, D.C. - Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is returning to normal levels as officials prepare to count votes on ratification of a new West Coast labor agreement. According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, the ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled a record-high 1.73 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in March 2015.

Driven up by a sudden surge of backlogged cargo from vessels that were sitting at anchor waiting to be discharged after the labor dispute ended, the number was up 44.9% from February and 33.1% from March 2014. One TEU is one 20-ft.-long cargo container or its equivalent.

April was estimated at 1.55 million TEU, up 8.1% from 2014. May is forecast at 1.56 million TEU, up 5.4%; June at 1.53 million TEU, up 3.7%; July at 1.57 million TEU, up 5.1%; August at 1.58 million TEU, up 3.9%, and September at 1.6 million TEU, up 1.1%.

The first half of 2015 is forecast at 8.8 million TEU, an increase of 6% over the same period last year.

“Dockworkers and management made a massive push to clear the backlog of cargo over the past several weeks and West Coast ports are getting back to normal despite concerns such as the Teamster picketing seen in Los Angeles and Long Beach earlier this month,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “We hope to see this month’s ratification vote go smoothly and then settle into a long period of efficient, dependable operations before we have to think about contract talks again.”

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