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Rail News: Intermodal

Global Port Tracker: Cargo backlog creates "unusually high" import volumes

Import cargo volume at major U.S. ports is expected to increase 16.9 percent this month compared with the same time last year — an increase dubbed "unusually high" by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates in their monthly Global Port Tracker report.

The high number is primarily a result of West Coast ports currently working through a backlog of cargo that built up during recently concluded contract negotiations with dockworkers.

"The contract talks are over, but the tentative agreement still has to be ratified and it's going to take months to get back to normal on the West Coast," said Jonathan Gold, NRF's vice president for supply chain and customs policy in a press release. "Retailers' immediate priority is to make sure spring merchandise reaches store shelves in time."

Container volume at U.S. ports is expected to rise to 1.52 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March. The report also attributed the increase to the Lunar New Year shutdown of Chinese factories, which pushed some February cargo into March.

Global Port Tracker's volume forecasts for the next four months, and the projected year-over-year gains, are: 1.51 million TEUs in April, up 5.2 percent; 1.57 million TEUs in May, up 6.1 percent; 1.57 million TEUs in June, up 6 percent; and 1.6 million TEUs in July, up 6.7 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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