As new contracts are negotiated for US West Coast dockworkers, import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 3.5% in May, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report.
Representatives of the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are set to begin negotiations next week on a new contract to replace the current agreement that expires 30 June 2014.
But, the National Retail Federation (NRF) which released the report with Hackett Associates, is urging both sides to avoid any disruptions that could affect the cargo flow.
“We’re expecting a lot of cargo to move through the ports this summer. We hope there won’t be any issues, but the sooner labour and management can agree on a new contract, the better it will be for everyone who relies on the West Coast ports,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy, NRF.
West Coast ports handle more than two thirds of US retail container cargo each year, including the bulk of cargo from Asia. The last major shutdown there occurred in 2002, closing ports for 10 days and creating a weeks-long backlog to be cleared.
US ports followed by Global Port Tracker have already seen a busy first few months of the year, handling 1.3 million teu in March and an estimated 1.38 million teu. May is forecast at 1.44 million teu, up 3.5% from last year, June at 1.43 million teu, up 5.6%, July at 1.49 million teu, up 3%, August at 1.5 million teu, up 0.8% and September at 1.44 million teu, up 0.1%.
“Most economic fundamentals are pointing in the direction of continued, sustained recovery in consumer demand and important volumes. This is turning out to be the longest period of growth for some time now,” added Ben Hackett, founder, Hackett Associates.