Traffic is growing so rapidly at the nation’s major retail container ports that August could tie October as the busiest month of the year, according to the August Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘The ports are already in peak season,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘Nationally, August volumes are expected to be as high as the peak projected for October, and we’re going to see the record numbers continue into fall. The increase in volume is going to challenge everyone’s ability to perform, but the ports themselves and the truck and rail systems are all operating OK so far. We expect shippers will make it through peak season without significant congestion.’

‘Port Tracker has been a very valuable tool this summer,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘With traffic at these levels, you can’t just sit back and hope for the best. You have to have some way to predict what’s going to happen, and that’s what Port Tracker is for.’

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 1.36 million teus of container traffic in June, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The figure was up 3.5% from May and 8.6% from June 2005.

June’s number was just under 2005’s year-long peak of 1.37 million teus set last October, and numbers well above the 2005 peak are expected to be hit through the remainder of this summer and fall: July is forecast at 1.42 million (up 10.3% from July 2005), August at 1.46 million (up 9.9% from August 2005), September at 1.42 million (up 5.7% from September 2005) and October at 1.46 million (up 6.5% from October 2005). As in past years, numbers are expected to fall off after October, dropping to 1.35 million in November (up 7.1% from November 2005 and 1.3 million in December (up 8.6% from December 2005).

Port Tracker, which is produced by the economic research, forecasting and analysis firm Global Insight for NRF, looks at inbound container volume, the availability of trucks and railroad cars to move cargo out of the ports, labor conditions and other factors that affect cargo movement and congestion.