Traffic at the nation’s major retail container ports dipped slightly in September but will hit another new record in October before the annual peak shipping season comes to an end, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘Coming off a record year, the peak season is winding down,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘Ports are operating without congestion, and the truck and rail systems are handling the volume. We expect the ports to be able to accommodate the projected volumes over the next six months without significant congestion and anticipate continued acceptable performance.’

‘Retailers are wrapping up their shipping season without incident, thanks in part to being able to use the Port Tracker report to closely monitor conditions at the ports,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘Port Tracker is an important tool in helping retailers measure port performance and plan accordingly.’

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 1.41 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (teus) of container traffic in September, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The figure was down 1.2% from August, when some shippers moved holiday cargo earlier than in past years, but up 5.2% from September 2005.

October is forecast at 1.45 million teus (up 5.8% from October 2005) and should continue its status as the busiest month of the year. Traffic will begin to decline for most of the remainder of the forecast period but will nonetheless continue to be above year-ago levels. November is forecast at 1.33 million teus (up five percent from November 2005), December at 1.29 million teus (up 7.5% from December 2005), January at 1.24 million teus (up 2.2% from January 2006) and February at 1.18 million teus (up 11% from February 2006). After hitting the bottom of the shipping cycle in February, traffic will begin to build again in March at 1.28 million teus (up 2.4% from March 2007).