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Imports at US ports set to hit record of 1.54 million TEU in August

IMPORTS through major US ports are expected to hit a record high as retailers concerned about the lack of a west coast longshoremen's contract rush to bring goods into the country, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker.

Imports at US ports set to hit record of 1.54 million TEU in August
13 August 2014 - 20:26

Imports at US ports set to hit record of 1.54 million TEU in August

IMPORTS through major US ports are expected to hit a record high as retailers concerned about the lack of a west coast longshoremen's contract rush to bring goods into the country, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker.

"The negotiations appear to be going well but each week that goes by makes the situation more critical as the holiday season approaches," said National Retail Federation (NRF) vice president Jonathan Gold.

Import volume at US ports covered by Port Tracker is expected to total 1.54 million TEU this month. That's the highest monthly volume since NRF began tracking in 2000.

It tops a previous record of 1.53 million TEU set in July and posted unusually high numbers this spring as retailers began importing goods early in anticipation of this summer's contract talks.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. Both sides have reported that talks have been "productive".

US ports followed by the report handled 1.48 million TEU in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.38 per cent from May but up 9.1 per cent from June 2013. 

The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 3.6 per cent sales growth in 2014. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales but is a barometer of retailers' expectations. 

Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, who does the research for the survey, said the increases in volume reflect both improvements in the economy and retailers importing early because of the contract negotiations.

"US GDP has increased in 11 out of the last 12 quarters, confirming that we are in a sustained period of expansion," Mr Hackett said. "But a significant portion of the upswing has been due to the labour negotiations."

The survey covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston. 

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