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Rail News: Intermodal

Global Port Tracker: Longshoremen contract dispute is driving up container volumes

Because West Coast longshoremen still are negotiating a new contract, retailers are bringing holiday merchandise into U.S. ports at record levels to protect against potential supply-chain disruptions, according to the latest "Global Port Tracker" report released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Import volume at major U.S. ports is expected to total 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in July, which would represent the highest monthly container volume in at least five years, the report states. A contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1.

"We're still hoping to get through this without any significant disruptions but retailers aren’t taking any chances," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release. "Retailers have been bringing merchandise in early for months now and will do what it takes to make sure shelves are stocked for their customers regardless of what happens during the negotiations."

Retailers have a number of contingency plans in place, including a cargo shift to East Coast ports. West Coast ports in May handled 59 percent of U.S. retail container cargo, down from 62 percent in January, the report states.

NRF and and Hackett Associates are forecasting August port volume at 1.51 million TEUs, which would represent a 1.6 percent year-over-year increase. September volume is expected to rise 1 percent to 1.45 million TEUs, October volume is projected to climb 3.8 percent to 1.49 million TEUs and November volume is forecasted to increase 3.6 percent to 1.39 million TEUs.

For the year's first half, Global Port Tracker estimates total port volume at 8.3 million TEUs, which would represent a 6.7 percent increase compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/10/2014