June 9 - With the current contract set to expire on June 30, the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is negotiating a new contract with US West Coast ports.

Memories of last year's protracted negotiations with East Coast ports, are still fresh in people's minds, which may account for the Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, which reports that that import volumes are expected to increase 7.5 0n June as shippers look to avoid any potential disruptions.

Negotiation topics include pay, healthcare costs and job security concerns in light of new technological enhancements that are being made to improve port efficiencies.

Clearly many shippers, ports, dock workers, logistics providers and ocean carriers are concerned that protracted negotiations could lead to disruption in US West Coast ports, which could benefit Canadian West Coast ports; US East Coast ports, as well as provide a spur for air freight.

According to the latest Global Port Tracker, US ports handled 1.43 million teu in April, up 9.9 percent from March and 10.3 percent from April 2013.

May was estimated at 1.47 million teu, up 5.8 percent from the same month last year, and June is forecast at 1.46 million teu, up 7.5 percent from last year.

"(May and June) are unusually high numbers not normally seen until later in the summer or fall, a sign that retailers have begun bringing imported merchandise into the country early because of the uncertainty of what could happen when the labour contract expires," said the report.