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Retail Imports Set for More Increases

ContainerShipWASHINGTON-Import cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to increase 8 percent in April over the same month last year, as West Coast ports continue to work through the backlog created by the labor dispute between the International Longshore Workers Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. The projection was part of the monthly Global Port Tracker Report issued by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement in February. This week, the union’s leadership recommended that members vote for the agreement’s ratification. The votes will be counted on May 22.

Commenting on the backlog, Jonathan Gold, NRF’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said, “Progress is being made but there’s still a lot of cargo waiting to be loaded onto trucks and trains and moved across the country, even after it’s unloaded from the ships. The situation is getting better, but we’re still far from normal.”

In February, the most recent month with available data, U.S. ports handled 3.6 percent fewer cargo units than in February of last year. The Global Port Tracker Report estimated March’s cargo total at 13.5 percent greater than March of last year. After this month’s expected 8 percent pickup, May’s total is projected for a 5.6 percent increase.

The report said June will probably finish with a 4.3 percent increase, followed by gains of 5.6 percent in July and 5.7 percent in August.

Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said, “The disruption on the West Coast appears to be over and great measures are being taken to clear the backlog of ships sitting offshore. Of course, all those ships being discharged are causing land-side issues as workers try to get containers out of the terminal gates and onto trucks and rail.”