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Report: Retail imports to increase 8.5% in February


Washington, D.C. -- A report released Friday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates estimated that retail imports will increase 8.5% in February, after a contract deal between the East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers is finalized.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report said that, had a key West Coast agreement also been settled, import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports would possibly have seen an additional rise.

“We were very happy to see a deal on a tentative contract for the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports but we are urging the parties to quickly work out any outstanding issues and ratify the agreement as soon as possible,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “We were disappointed that the LA/Long Beach clerical workers’ contract wasn’t ratified, but are encouraging the parties to work through their differences without a disruption.”

The International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance reached tentative agreement February 1 on a contract that avoided a strike that could have shut down East Coast and Gulf Coast ports from Maine to Texas. The agreement is subject to reaching supplemental local agreements and ratification by union members. Last Wednesday, however, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 63 Office Clerical Unit voted down a tentative agreement with the Harbor Employers Association that ended an eight-day strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November and December 2012.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.32 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.8% from November and up 8% from December 2011. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. The numbers for December brought 2012 to a total of 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9% from 2011. January was estimated at 1.34 million TEU, up 4.6% from January 2012.

February is forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 8.5% from last year; March at 1.29 million TEU, up 3.6%; April at 1.36 million TEU, up 4.4%, May at 1.45 million TEU, up 6.2%, and June at 1.45 million TEU, up 4.9%. The six months of data projections for 2013 should bring the first half of the year to 8.1 million TEU, up 5.3% from the first half of 2012.

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