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Container traffic to grow 9% in April

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to grow 9% in April, compared with the same month a year ago, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“These numbers are an indication that the economy is recovering and retailers are expecting continued increases in sales through the summer and beyond,” said the NRF’s VP supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “There are challenges ahead from rising prices for gasoline and other essentials, but inventories are under control and retailers are optimistic.”

March is forecast at 1.2 million TEU, an 11% increase over March 2010. (One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.) April is forecast at 1.24 million TEU, up 9% from a year ago; May at 1.32 million TEU, up 4%; June at 1.38 million TEU, up 5%; July at 1.45 million TEU, up 5%; and August at 1.54 million TEU, up 8%.

The first half of 2011 is forecast at 7.4 million TEU, up 8% from the first half of 2010. For the full year, 2010 totaled 14.7 million TEU, a 16% increase over 2009. Last year’s percentages were high because 2009’s 12.7 million TEU was the lowest level seen since 2003.

“The economy is slowly on the mend with many of the key short-term indicators providing positive directions,” Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. “Consumers are buoyed by falling unemployment and are somewhat freer with their money.”

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Long Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast.