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Rail News: Intermodal

Imports back to normal levels after contract ratification, report says

Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports has returned to "normal levels" following the recent ratification of a West Coast labor agreement, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by the report handled 1.52 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in April, the latest month that after-the-fact numbers are available, which was down 12.4 percent compared with March, when numbers were driven up by a surge of cargo that was backlogged after the labor dispute ended.

May volume is estimated at 1.56 million TEUs, up 5 percent compared with May 2014. The first half of 2015 is forecast at 8.8 million TEUs, which would be a 5.4 percent increase over the same period last year.

"Despite some lingering labor issues, the volume of cargo and the rate of growth have both largely settled down," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customers Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release. "There are still congestion issues to be dealt with, but we’re hoping to see reasonably normal back-to-school and holiday seasons this year now that the tensions of contract negotiations are behind us."

The Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union in May ratified a new five-year contract agreed to in February. The lack of a contract prompted "crisis-level" congestion at West Coast ports after the previous agreement expired in July 2014, NRF officials said.

Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. 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.

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More News from 6/9/2015