Labor Talks Push U.S. Ports Import Volume Towards 5-Year High

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July 9, 2014

Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach

By Caelainn Barr

July 9 (Bloomberg) — Imports into U.S. ports may hit a five-year high this month, as retailers rush in holiday goods to avoid potential disruptions as West Coast longshore workers negotiate a new contract.

Volumes at U.S. container ports are expected to reach 1.5 million containers this month, up 4.3 percent from last year, according to a statement from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports, expired on July 1. Discussions are ongoing and the union has extended its previous six-year contract until July 11, when negotiations will resume.

“Retailers have been bringing merchandise in early for months now and will do what it takes to make sure shelves are stocked for their customers regardless of what happens during the negotiations,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, in the statement.

Cargo volumes are a barometer of retailers’ expectations and the NRF is forecasting a 4.1 percent rise in sales this year as consumer confidence rebounds and unemployment falls.

Retailers are already beginning to make alternate plans. Some importers have begun shifting cargo to East Coast ports, the statement said, citing numbers from Global Port Tracker.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.

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