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Rail News: Intermodal

Global Port Tracker report: Potential labor disruption drives June import volumes

Import container volume at major U.S. ports is expected to increase 7.5 percent in June as retailers continue to stockpile high quantities of merchandise to avoid any potential port disruptions from a labor action after a West Coast dockworkers contract expires June 30, according to the latest "Global Port Tracker" report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

"We don't want to see disruptions at the ports, but retailers are making sure they are prepared in case that happens," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release. "Whether it's bringing cargo in early or other contingency plans, retailers will keep the shelves stocked for the back-to-school and holiday seasons."

Container volume at U.S. ports is forecasted to reach 1.46 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in June, which would represent a 7.5 percent increase compared with June 2013 volume. The projected volume and percentage gain "both are unusually high numbers not normally seen until later in the summer or fall," NRF officials said.

Global Port Tracker's volume forecasts for the next four months, and the projected year-over-year gains, are: 1.51 million TEUs in July, up 4.4 percent; 1.52 million TEUs in August, up 1.9 percent; 1.45 million TEUs in September, up 0.8 percent; and 1.48 million TEUs in October, up 3.4 percent.

Volume in 2014's first half is expected to total 8.3 million TEUs, which would represent a 6.5 percent increase versus the same 2013 period. NRF is forecasting 4.1 percent sales growth in 2014.

"The weather is behind us and inventories are coming down as the consumer ventures out and West Coast dockworkers and management remain at the bargaining table," said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett. "The real question is, how long can the economic expansion continue?"

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More News from 6/9/2014