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Light traffic, little congestion in retail industry
Feb '08
Traffic at the nation's major retail container ports will see weak or even negative growth compared with last year for the next several months as the nation's economic slowdown continues, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

“Container traffic at the ports is a leading economic indicator because it reflects retailers' expectations for sales,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “With the industry expecting the slowest growth in half a dozen years, we're going to see little increase in cargo on the docks.”

With light traffic, little congestion is expected.

“Most ports are operating without congestion from the harbor to the gate,” Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. “Seattle and Tacoma are threatened with near-term winter weather-related delays and are rated medium for congestion. But rail service showed continued adequate performance in January and apart from some weather disruptions intermodal rail operations are expected to continue to perform acceptably over the next six months.”

Ports surveyed handled 1.3 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) of container traffic in December, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The number was down 6.4 percent from November's 1.39 million TEU, and 0.9 percent from December 2006. January was estimated at 1.28 million TEU, down 1.1 percent from January 2007, and February is forecast at 1.21 million TEU, down 7.6 percent from February 2007.

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