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Rail News: Intermodal

Ports navigate through peak season congestion-free, retail federation report says

U.S. ports are handling the peak shipping season with no significant congestion despite concerns about potential rail delays associated with Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) and Global Insight’s December “Port Tracker” report.

The report lowered congestion ratings for West Coast ports in Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, Calif., and Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., from “medium” to “low,” meaning there is no serious congestion, delays or cargo diversions expected. In November, Port Tracker raised the ports’ rating from low to medium because of anticipated rail delays.

“We warned of possible increases in rail problems last month, but the railroads have gotten through with few substantial delays and little congestion despite strained network and terminal capacity,” said Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham in a prepared statement. “Some shippers experienced intermodal rail delays, but the industry performed much better than last year at this time.”

Meanwhile, the report maintained a low rating for Atlantic Coast ports in New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Va., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

With the peak season winding down, container volume will decrease compared with recent months, but remain ahead of last year’s levels, according to the report.

“After the past few years, it’s a relief to know we’ve gotten through the peak of the shipping season without any serious incidents,” said NRF Vice President and international Trade Counsel Erik Autor. “There were some threats from Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s effect on railroad capacity, but the ports themselves didn’t see the problems we’ve seen in the past.”

In October, ports handled 1.4 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up 7.9 percent compared with October 2004 and 1.9 percent compared with September 2005. Traffic will decline to a low of 1.1 million TEUs in February, then climb to 1.3 million TEUs in April, according to the report.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/6/2005