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Import cargo at major US retail ports could hit 18 m TEU for 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Import cargo volume at major US retail container ports is expected to breach the 18 million TEU mark this year, said the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

The report says that import volume is expected to increase 8.3 per cent this month over the same time last year as consumers begin their holiday shopping. It’s also forecasting a 3.7 per cent increase in holiday sales this year over 2014.

The report covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

The facilities are expected to handle 1.62 million TEU in September, down 3.5 per cent from August but up 2.2 per cent from a year ago.

October was estimated at 1.63 million TEU, up 4.5 per cent from 2014. November is forecast at 1.51 million TEU, up 8.3 per cent, and December at 1.44 million TEU, up 0.4 per cent.

NFR said those numbers would bring 2015 to a total of 18.35 million TEU, up 6.1 per cent from last year. The first half of 2015 totalled 8.9 million TEU, up 6.5 percent over the same period last year.

“Conditions aren’t perfect but the ports are running reasonably well,” NRF vice president for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.

“That’s a dramatic difference from this time last year, when the West Coast ports were experiencing slowdowns and congestion from labor negotiations. Retailers had instituted costly contingency plans but were still worried about whether merchandise would be unloaded in time for the holidays. This year, most merchandise has already arrived and replenishment should not be a problem.”

January 2016 is forecast at 1.46 million TEU, up 18.5 per cent from weak numbers seen a year earlier just before West Coast dockworkers agreed in February 2015 on a new contract that ended a months-long labour dispute. February 2016 is forecast at 1.41 million TEU, up 17.9 percent, also skewed by the labour dispute. March is forecast at 1.35 million TEU, down 21.9 per cent from a year ago because of large volumes seen after the contract agreement.

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