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Rail News: Intermodal

Retail imports to grow 4.5 percent in year, Global Port Tracker says

Import cargo volume at major U.S. ports is expected to decline year-over-year for the next few months, but the first half of the year should still amount to a 4.5 percent increase compared with the same 2015 period, according to a Global Port Tracker report released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

"Retailers are carefully managing their inventories but still need to stock up on seasonal goods for spring and summer," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a press release. "Comparisons with last year are difficult because of the surge of cargo after problems at West Coast ports ended, but we think consumers will continue to increase their spending this year and retailers will be ready.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in December. With most holiday merchandise already in the United States by that point, volume was down 3.4 percent from November and 0.8 percent from the prior year. That brought 2015 to a total of 18.2 million TEUs, up 5.3 percent from 2014's total.

This year, January was up an estimated 18.3 percent over the same 2015 period at 1.46 million TEUs, but the percentage was skewed "unusually high" because of weak 2015 volume just before agreement on a contract with West Coast dockworkers ended months of congestion, according to the report.

For February, Global Port Tracker forecasts 1.39 million TEUs, which would represent a 16.2 percent increase year over year; for March, 1.35 million TEUs, down 22.4 percent; April, 1.49 million TEUs, down 1.2 percent; May, 1.57 million TEUs, down 2.6 percent; and June, 1.55 million TEUs, down 1.2 percent. The first half of 2016 is expected to total 8.8 million TEUs, or the aforementioned 4.5 percent increase compared with the same 2015 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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