Friday, June 06, 2014

Ports strike threat spurs retail import surge

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U.S. rail intermodal volume likely is benefitting from a surge in import volume through U.S. West Coast ports as a labor contract nears expiration, according to a report released Friday, June 6, 2014, by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

Import volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to increase 7.5% this month, the report said, as retailers bring high quantities of merchandise into the country early to avoid any potential disruptions from a possible strike.

"We don't want to see disruptions at the ports but retailers are making sure they are prepared in case that happens," NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. "Whether it's bringing cargo in early or other contingency plans, retailers will keep the shelves stocked for the back-to-school and holiday seasons."

April and May import numbers are considered "unusually high numbers not normally seen until later in the summer or fall, a sign that retailers have begun bringing imported merchandise into the country early because of the uncertainty of what could happen when the labor contract expires," NRF said in a statement Friday.

Negotiations are ongoing between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, in advance of a June 30 expiration of the current contract.

NRF says it is "the world's largest retail trade association," with members in the U.S. and 45 other nations.