A month after hitting a record high in August, traffic at the nation’s major retail container ports will see a lull in September before setting another record in October, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘We’re clearly in peak season,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘August was an all-time record and even September’s ‘lull’ will be higher than where the record stood two years ago. Despite the increase in volume, ports are operating without congestion, there are no problems with port trucking, and rail performance is acceptable. Shippers can have confidence that the system will have adequate capacity to provide for acceptable performance for the remainder of the year.’

‘The holiday season is nearly here, so this is a crucial time in retailers’ annual shipping cycle,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘With this much merchandise moving through the ports, it is vital that retailers keep a very close watch on the supply chain.’

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

Nationwide, the ports surveyed handled 1.46 million twenty-foot equivalent units (teu) of container traffic in July, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. That was up 4.9% from July 2006 and up 0.6% from this June.

Ports in the survey handled an estimated 1.52 teu in August, up 2.3% from August 2006 and breaking the record of 1.51 million teu set last October. Volume should drop to 1.48 million teu in September, the same as last September. October, traditionally the busiest month of the year, is forecast to set another record high at 1.54 million teu, up two percent from last year. After the October peak, traffic should drop to 1.44 million teu in November (up 1.8% from November 2006), 1.41 million teu in December (up 7.7% from December 2006), and 1.38 million teu in January 2008 (up 6.5% from January 2007). One teu is a 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

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.