Traffic at the nation’s major retail container ports hit new records over the summer and is expected to continue to do so as the annual shipping cycle reaches its peak this month, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘We are now in the height of peak season, with October volumes expected to be the highest of any month this year,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘The ports are operating without congestion, and truck and rail systems are handling the record volumes well. We expect the ports to be able to handle these volumes without significant congestion, and we expect continued acceptable performance over the next six months.’

‘With volume growing this quickly, retailers are depending on Port Tracker for up-to-date information more than ever,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘These numbers are being watched very closely by the retail industry.’

All ports covered by Port Tracker ’ Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma and Seattle on the West Coast, and New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston and Savannah on the East Coast ’ are currently rated ‘low’ for congestion, the same as last month.

Nationwide, the ports surveyed handled 1.44 million teus of container traffic in August, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The figure was up five percent from July and 8.4% from August 2005.

With volume continuing to grow, the August number has already topped 2005’s year-long peak of 1.37 million teus, set last October. September is forecast at 1.4 million teus (up 4.9% from September 2005) and October at 1.46 million teus (up 6.5% from October 2005). After the holiday-driven shipping season peaks in October, volume over the six-month period of the forecast will begin to decline to 1.35 million teus in November (up 6.7% from November 2005), 1.3 million teus in December (up 8.3% from December 2005), 1.26 million teus in January (up 3.2% from January 2006) and 1.19 million teus in February (up 11.6% from February 2006).