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Tiffany Montgomery
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Retail container traffic slowly climbing

By Tiffany Montgomery
July 11, 2008 6:34 AM

Data released yesterday shows that traffic at major retail cargo ports is slowly climbing but is expected to stay below last year's levels through most of 2008.

Also, the West Coast dockworkers contract expired July 1, but the two sides are continuing to negotiate and a work stoppage is not expected.

October traffic numbers are expected to show an increase over last year - an important sign because October is when the largest share of merchandise sold during the holiday season usually comes through the ports, National Retail Federation Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. If October numbers show an increase over last year as expected, it will be the first year-over-year increase in retail container traffic at the ports since July, 2007.

November is expected to decline again, but the second half of the year is looking much better than the first half, he said.

According to the press release, U.S. ports surveyed handled 1.31 million Twenty-Foot-Equivalent Units (TEU) of container traffic in May, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That's up 3.4 percent from April but down 5 percent from May 2007. One TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.

Year-to-year numbers are expected to deteriorate less during the second half of this year than they did during the first half. Traffic for January-June 2008 was down 6 percent from the same period in 2007, but June-November 2008 is expected to be down only 0.6 percent from June-November 2007.

The data is from the National Retail Federation and analysis firm Global Insight.


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