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Container traffic to grow 6% in first half of 2011

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 11% in February over the same month last year, and increase 6% over the first half of 2011, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“Strong growth in 2010 has retailers cautiously optimistic that the economic recovery is finally taking hold,” said Jonathan Gold, VP supply chain and customs policy for NRF. “While high unemployment and rising commodity prices are cause for concern, retailers are encouraged by six consecutive months of retail sales gains and improved consumer confidence.”

U.S. ports handled 1.14 million TEU in December, the latest month for which actual numbers are available. (One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.) That was down 7% from November as the holiday season wound down, but up 5% from December 2009. It was the 13th month in a row to show a year-over-year improvement after December 2009 broke a 28-month streak of year-over-year declines.

January remained steady at 1.14 million TEU, a 6% increase over January 2010. February is forecast at 1.11 million TEU, up 11% over last year, with March at 1.16, up 8%; April at 1.22 million TEU, up 7%; May at 1.3 million TEU, up 3%; and June at 1.37 million TEU, up 4%. 

The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.3 million TEU, up 6% from the first half of 2010. That compares with 17% growth in the first half of 2010 over the first half of 2009. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16% increase over 2009. The percentages were high because 2009’s 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003. 

The U.S. ports covered by Port Tracker are: Los 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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