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Rail News: Intermodal

Retail import patterns 'uneven' for the summer, retail federation says


Major U.S. retail container ports are anticipating import cargo volume to be mostly down during the summer, but they should see a significant uptick just prior to the winter holiday season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.44 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9.1 percent from March, but down 4.6 percent in April 2015, NRF officials said in a press release.

May was estimated at 1.54 million TEUs, down 4.2 percent from the same month last year. June is forecast to also be 1.54 million TEUs, down 1.9 percent from last year; July at 1.62 million TEUs, up 0.2 percent; August at 1.63 million TEUs, down 3 percent; September at 1.57 million TEUs, down 3.5 percent; and October at 1.61 million TEUs, up 3.4 percent.

The first half of 2016 is expected to total 8.9 million TEUs, up 0.3 percent from the same period in 2015. Total volume for 2015 was 18.2 million TEUs, up 5.4 percent from 2014.

"The unusual patterns seen last year in the aftermath of the West Coast ports slowdown are continuing to make valid year-over-year comparisons difficult," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "Retailers are balancing imports with existing inventories but consumers can expect to see plenty of merchandise on the shelves for both back-to-school and the holidays."

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, 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.