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Import volume at the nation's major container ports is expected to continue rising in the first half despite significant congestion that's still impacting West Coast ports, according to the latest Global Port Tracker report released Friday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.Now that a federal mediator has been assigned to help resolve a contract dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the parties hope to reach a new agreement quickly "so we can begin to work on solutions to the ongoing congestion issues,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold in a press release."The urgent need to end the uncertainty we've seen for half a year now isn't over just because the holiday season has ended," he said. "Retailers are already starting to bring in products for the spring season, and want both labor and management to work together to bring these issues to an end."Ports covered by Global Port Tracker in December handled an estimated 1.35 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), up 2.7 percent year over year. With that projected volume, the preliminary total for 2014 reached 17.2 million TEUs, which would represent a 6 percent increase compared with 2013’s total, according to the report."Last year started out with a whimper as winter weather hammered the country, but it appears to have ended with a bang," said Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett. "Import volumes on the West Coast, despite all the problems there, were the highest since 2009."January volume is forecasted at 1.39 million TEUs, which would constitute a 1.1 percent year-over-year gain. Projected volumes the next four months show February at 1.3 million TEUs (up 4.8 percent), March at 1.3 million TEUs (down 0.5 percent), April at 1.43 million TEUs (the same as in 2014) and May at 1.49 million TEUs (up 0.6 percent).
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