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Rail News: Intermodal

Port Tracker anticipates February import gain; Virginia port sets January volume record

Import volume at the nation's major container ports is expected to rise 10.1 percent this month versus the same time last year even as West Coast ports face a possible shutdown due to lingering negotiations over a dockworker contract, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

February volume is forecasted at 1.37 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). In January, the ports covered by the report handled an estimated 1.48 million TEUs, which would represent a 7.5 percent year-over-year increase.

Following negotiations that began last spring, the contract between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) expired on July 1, 2014. A mediator joined bargaining sessions last month and talks have continued, but the parties haven't yet reached an agreement, NRF officials said in a press release. The PMA earlier this week informed the ILWU that ships won't be worked at West Coast ports for four of five days, the second time in less than a week that vessels were idled.

"With cargo volume growing as the economy continues to recover, the last thing we need is a port shutdown that would bring billions of dollars of economic activity to a halt," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "Whether it's in retail, manufacturing, agriculture or other industries, there are too many jobs that rely on the ports to let that happen."

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker report are projected to handle 1.34 million TEUs in March, 1.49 million TEUs in April, 1.56 million TEUs in May and another 1.56 million TEUs in June, which would represent year-over-year gains of 3 percent, 4.3 percent, 4.9 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. If those figures hold true, first-half volume would reach 8.8 million TEUs, a 5.8 percent increase versus the same 2014 period, the report states.

Global Port Tracker monitors ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland, Calif.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; Houston; New York City (New York and New Jersey); Norfolk, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Meanwhile, the Port of Virginia in Norfolk announced its January volume totaled 191,996 TEUs, up 15 percent year over year and a new January record, besting last year’s mark by 24,725 TEUs.

Growth in rail, barge and truck volumes drove the gain. Rail container volume jumped 22.1 percent to 39,402, Barge container volume climbed 16.7 percent to 4,393 and truck container volume rose 12.2 percent to 67,527.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/12/2015