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Record imports expected as West Coast port talks continue


Washington, D.C. -- The Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said that import volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to hit an all-time record in August.

Retailers concerned about the lack of a West Coast longshoremen’s contract are rushing to bring holiday season merchandise into the country, according to NRF.

“The negotiations appear to be going well but each week that goes by makes the situation more critical as the holiday season approaches,” NRF VP for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers are making sure they are stocked up so shoppers won’t be affected regardless of what happens at the ports.”

Import volume at U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report is expected to total 1.54 million containers this month. That’s the highest monthly volume since NRF began tracking import volume in 2000, topping a previous record of 1.53 million set in July and unusually high numbers seen this spring as retailers began importing merchandise early in anticipation of this summer’s contract talks.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. Dockworkers remain on the job as both sides continue to negotiate a new agreement. Both sides have reported that talks have been “productive,” and NRF has urged both labor and management to avoid any disruptions that could affect the flow of back-to-school or holiday merchandise.

U.S. ports followed by the report handled 1.48 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.38% from May but up 9.1% from June 2013. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.53 million TEU, up 5.8% from the same month last year, and August is forecast at 1.54 million TEU, up 3.6% from last year. September is forecast at 1.48 million TEU, up 2.8% from last year; October also at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.3%; November at 1.37 million TEU, up 2%; and December at 1.34 million TEU, up 2.1%. Those numbers would bring 2014 to a total of 17.1 million TEU, an increase of 5.2% over 2013’s 16.2 million.

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