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Retail container traffic to be rise 9% in December, 17% for year

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Tuesday by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates said that import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to be up 9% in December over the same month last year, and 2010 should end with a 17% increase over last year.

“The nation’s improving economy has been reflected in the amount of merchandise imported by retailers this year,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “We haven’t fully recovered from the recession, and we still need more job creation to get consumer confidence back where it should be.”

Gold added that import levels have seen solid increases throughout the year and “we expect that to continue in 2011. Cargo volume doesn’t translate directly to sales, but these trends are certainly in line with what we’ve experienced with monthly retail sales and this year’s holiday season.”

According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report, U.S. ports handled 1.34 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in October, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That was unchanged from September but up 13% from October 2009. It was the eleventh month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

November was estimated at 1.25 million TEU, a 15% increase over last year. December is forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 9% from last year. January 2011 is forecast at 1.16 million TEU, up 8% from January 2010. February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, is forecast at 1.1 million TEU, up 10% from last year, while March is forecast at 1.14 million TEU, up 6%, and April is forecast at 1.18 million TEU, up 4%.

The first half of 2010 totaled 6.9 million TEU, up 17% from the same period last year. The full year is forecast at 14.6 million TEU, which would be up 17% from the 12.7 million TEU seen in 2009, which was the lowest since the 12.5 million TEU reported in 2003. The 2010 number remains below the 15.2 million TEU seen in 2008 and the peak of 16.5 million TEU seen in 2007.

Global Port Tracker covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.