The nation’s major retail container ports are operating smoothly this month as volume levels build back up after the winter slow season, according to the April Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

‘Heading into the buildup toward the peak season, all ports are operating without congestion,’ Global Insight Economist Paul Bingham said. ‘The outlook is for continued good performance despite challenges from continued growth in trade. We still have concerns with the condition of the rail system and challenges for the trucking industry later this year, but we expect the industry should do even better than last year, with little terminal or network congestion.’

‘We were concerned last month that the Dubai Ports World issue might lead Congress to pass legislation that would impact terminal operations, but the issue appears to have been resolved and is not expected to affect port congestion at this point,’ NRF Vice President and International Trade Counsel Erik Autor said. ‘Port Tracker will continue to monitor developments that affect the cargo supply chain whether they are taking place on the docks or in Washington.’

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 March.

Nationwide, ports surveyed handled 1.09 million teus of container traffic during February, the most recent month for which numbers are available. The figure ’ the lowest volume of the slow, post-holiday winter season ’ was down 11.7% from January and 1.6% from February 2005. Volume is beginning to climb again and should hit 1.45 million teus in August, up 9.5% from August 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.