The nation’s major retail container ports are operating smoothly this month as the busy summer shipping season approaches, according to the May Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘With summer volume increases soon upon us, monthly port container activity is building toward peak season with all ports operating without congestion,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘The 2006 peak season outlook is for continued good performance, although continued challenges to system performance remain with the continued growth in trade. There are renewed concerns with port trucking and congestion at the Panama Canal that add a note of caution compared with last month, but we expect the industry will be able to manage without serious terminal or network congestion.’

‘The fallout from the Dubai Ports World issue is exhibiting itself with increased attention to maritime security but we do not expect port congestion to result,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘Port Tracker will continue to monitor conditions so retailers can react appropriately.’

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 April.

Nationwide, ports surveyed handled 1.27 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (teus) of container traffic during March, the most recent month for which numbers are available. The figure was up 17.4% from February and 20% from March 2005. Over the six-month forecast period of the report, volume is expected to climb to a peak of 1.45 million teu in August, up 9.4% from August 2005. Numbers will dip to 1.4 million teu in September, still up 4.5% from the year before. 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.