Import Volume Set for Jump in June

Container PortWASHINGTON-With a potential strike by West Coast dockworkers on the horizon, retailers are expected to rush high quantities of merchandise through the major U.S. container ports in June, according to the most recent Global Port Tracker report issued by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

This month is expected to bring a 7.5 percent rise in import volume at the retail container ports. “We don’t want to see disruptions at the ports, but retailers are making sure they are prepared in case that happens,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Whether its bringing cargo in early or other contingency plans, retailers will keep the shelves stocked for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union began negotiations last month with the Pacific Maritime Association on a new contract. The current agreement expires on June 30. An NRF statement said West Coast ports handle more than two-thirds of U.S. retail container cargo, including the bulk of cargo from Asia.

In April, the most recent month with available figures, import cargo volume rose 9.9 percent over the volume handled in March, and 10.3 percent more than the volume from April 2013. The Global Port Tracker report estimated that May’s volume will come in at 7.5 percent ahead of last year.

July’s volume is projected for a 4.4 percent year-over-year increase, while August should see volume rise 1.9 percent. September’s volume is estimated for a 0.8 percent gain, while October should bring a pickup of 3.4 percent.

Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said retail inventory levels are beginning to decline as shoppers have begun returning to the stores following the severe weather earlier this year. “The real question is, how long can the economic expansion continue?” Hackett said.