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Retail Container Traffic to Increase Double Digits This Month

WASHINGTON - Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to be up 11% in March over the same month last year, said the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
     "These numbers show solid increases over last year and are evidence that our nation's economic recovery is continuing to build momentum," said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp for supply chain and customs policy. "Increases in imports are a clear sign that retailers expect sales to continue to climb in the next several months."
     U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.2 million TEU - or twenty-foot equivalent units - in January, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. That represented a 5% increase from December and up 12% from January 2010.
     In addition, it was the 14th consecutive month reflecting a yearover- year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.
     One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
     February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, was estimated at 1.12 million TEU, which translates to a 12% increase over February 2010. March is forecast at 1.19 million TEU, up 11% from a year ago; April at 1.24 million TEU, up 9%; May at 1.32 million TEU, up 5%; June at 1.39 million TEU, up 5%; and July at 1.45 million TEU, up 5%.
     The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.5 million TEU, a 9% gain from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16% increase from 2009. Last year's percentages were high because 2009's 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003.
     But the recent political turmoil in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere is driving up oil prices and will likely increase shipping costs, warned Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett.
     "Oil supply is going down as a number of nations have dropped out of the production cycle," he explained. "Freight rates have been decreasing but that will not last long as fuel costs are factored in."
     Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, 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.

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