Import cargo volume at the nation's major retail container ports is expected to increase 6.3% in August compared with the same month last year, and 2012 should show an increase of 4.8% over last year,
according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"These numbers all show significant increases for the months when retailers will be bringing merchandise into the country for the crucial holiday season, and we're also expecting an increase for the full year," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "Actual sales will depend on how consumers react to employment levels and other indicators, but retailers are clearly stocking up and hoping for a stronger fall and winter than they saw last year."

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.41 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 4.7% from May and 10.7% from June 2011. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.39 million TEU, up 2.6% from last year. August is forecast at 1.44 million TEU, up 6.3%; September at 1.46 million TEU, up 7.3%; October at 1.47 million TEU, up 13.2%; November at 1.3 million TEU, up 2.4%; and December at 1.23 million TEU, up 2.4%.

The first half of 2012 totaled 7.6 million TEU, up 3.8% from the same period last year. For the full year, 2012 is expected to total 15.9 million TEU, up 4.8% from 2011.

"Indicators are mixed, and analysts are getting nervous and expecting the U.S. consumer to retrench and reduce consumption," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. "But we continue to believe that trade will not weaken as much as expected by others."

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, Savannah and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.