Executive Briefings

Retail Imports to Increase 8.5 Percent in February After Ports Contract Deal Reached

With a tentative contract deal reached with East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers - though a key West Coast agreement remains unsettled - import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 8.5 percent in February over the same month last year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"We were very happy to see a deal on a tentative contract for the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, but we are urging the parties to quickly work out any outstanding issues and ratify the agreement as soon as possible," says Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "We need a long-term labor contract in place to give retailers and the other industries that depend on the ports confidence that cargo will continue flowing. We were disappointed that the LA/Long Beach clerical workers' contract wasn't ratified, but are encouraging the parties to work through their differences without a disruption."

The International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance reached tentative agreement February 1 on a contract that avoided a strike that could have shut down East Coast and Gulf Coast ports from Maine to Texas. The agreement is subject to reaching supplemental local agreements and ratification by union members. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit voted down a tentative agreement with the Harbor Employers Association that ended an eight-day strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November and December 2012.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.32 million twenty-foot equivalent units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.8 percent from November and up 8 percent from December 2011.

The numbers for December brought 2012 to a total of 15.8 million TEUs, up 2.9 percent from 2011.

January was estimated at 1.34 million TEUs, up 4.6 percent from January 2012. February is forecast at 1.18 million TEUs, up 8.5 percent from last year; March at 1.29 million TEUs, up 3.6 percent; April at 1.36 million TEUs, up 4.4 percent, May at 1.45 million TEUs, up 6.2 percent, and June at 1.45 million TEUs, up 4.9 percent.

The six months of data projections for 2013 should bring the first half of the year to 8.1 million TEU, up 5.3 percent from the first half of 2012.

"Short to medium-term economic indicators suggest that growth will be sustained but that there will be no breakout into a boom as consumers remain cautious," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. "The fourth-quarter decrease in GDP should not be taken as a guide for projecting trade. More relevant was the data from the Department of Commerce that showed net disposable income was up."

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, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Source: National Retail Federation

"We were very happy to see a deal on a tentative contract for the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, but we are urging the parties to quickly work out any outstanding issues and ratify the agreement as soon as possible," says Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy. "We need a long-term labor contract in place to give retailers and the other industries that depend on the ports confidence that cargo will continue flowing. We were disappointed that the LA/Long Beach clerical workers' contract wasn't ratified, but are encouraging the parties to work through their differences without a disruption."

The International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance reached tentative agreement February 1 on a contract that avoided a strike that could have shut down East Coast and Gulf Coast ports from Maine to Texas. The agreement is subject to reaching supplemental local agreements and ratification by union members. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit voted down a tentative agreement with the Harbor Employers Association that ended an eight-day strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November and December 2012.

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.32 million twenty-foot equivalent units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.8 percent from November and up 8 percent from December 2011.

The numbers for December brought 2012 to a total of 15.8 million TEUs, up 2.9 percent from 2011.

January was estimated at 1.34 million TEUs, up 4.6 percent from January 2012. February is forecast at 1.18 million TEUs, up 8.5 percent from last year; March at 1.29 million TEUs, up 3.6 percent; April at 1.36 million TEUs, up 4.4 percent, May at 1.45 million TEUs, up 6.2 percent, and June at 1.45 million TEUs, up 4.9 percent.

The six months of data projections for 2013 should bring the first half of the year to 8.1 million TEU, up 5.3 percent from the first half of 2012.

"Short to medium-term economic indicators suggest that growth will be sustained but that there will be no breakout into a boom as consumers remain cautious," Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. "The fourth-quarter decrease in GDP should not be taken as a guide for projecting trade. More relevant was the data from the Department of Commerce that showed net disposable income was up."

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, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

Source: National Retail Federation