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            november 15, 2019

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US box imports expected to rise 2.3pc


Import cargo volume through major US container ports is expected to increase 2.3 per cent year on year in January as retailers urge east and Gulf coast longshoremen and waterfront managers to avoid a dock strike, according to the Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
"The strike deadline came and went at the end of December, but the threat of closing down nearly half our nation's port capacity has only been postponed, not eliminated," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.
"The uncertainty of what will happen in February has retailers implementing expensive contingency plans yet again and is a burden our economy cannot afford," he said.
The latest extension of contract talks between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) runs through February 6 and comes after previous strike deadlines in September and October.
Union and management are to meet this week under the supervision of federal mediators, but the ILA walked away from local talks affecting the Ports of New York and New Jersey earlier this week. A strike would close 14 ports from Maine to Texas where nearly 15,000 dockers handle 40 per cent of US ocean cargo.
US ports followed by Port Tracker handled 1.25 million TEU in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. With most holiday merchandise already in the country that was down 8.6 per cent from October, and down 2.8 per cent from November 2011.
December was estimated at 1.3 million TEU, up 6.5 per cent from last year. January is forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 2.3 per cent from January 2012; February at 1.15 million TEU, up six per cent; March at 1.25 million TEU, up 0.5 per cent, April at 1.33 million TEU, up 1.7 per cent and May at 1.42 million TEU, up 3.4 per cent.
The first half of 2012 totalled 7.7 million TEU, up three per cent from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 was estimated at 15.8 million TEU, up 2.9 per cent from 2011.
Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said there were signs that retailers brought merchandise into the country early as the ILA's December 29 strike deadline approached.
"We have seen a rise in the level of the retail inventory-to-sales ratio," Mr Hackett said. "This may be a reflection of importers stocking up ahead of an expected strike, though the run-up came well ahead of that."
Global Port Tracker covers the 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 as well as Houston on the Gulf Coast, according to the Shipping Gazette. 

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