In its previous edition, the Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates posited that United States-bound retail container volumes call for an all-time volume high by the end of this summer. And in the current edition of the report, which was released today, it looks like that projection may become a reality.  The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades. Authors of the report explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.“We’re expecting retailers to import some of the largest volumes of merchandise ever,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “That’s a good indicator of what could be ahead for consumer demand and retail sales, and it’s a sign that retail is going strong despite what you might read in the headlines.”For May, the most recent month for which data is available, ports covered in the report handled 1.72 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), which is up 7.3% over April and is up 5.1% annually. June was projected to come in at 1.66 million TEU for a 5.3% annual increase, and July was pegged at 1.71 million TEU for a 5.1% increase, with August expected to be up 2.2% annually at 1.75 million TEU. September and October are slotted for 1.66 million TEU and1.71 million TEU for an increase of 4.3% and 2.2%, respectively.Should the August figure come in as projected, the report said it would stand as the single highest volume month since the NRF initially started tracking import volumes in 2000, ahead of the 1.73 million TEU recorded in March 2015. And should July, August, and October meet expected projections, those three months, along with May would stand as four of the six highest volume months since data for the report has been collected.The first half forecast for imports for the first half of 2017 was again mildly upgraded in the report from 9.6 million TEU to 9.63 million TEU, which is a 7.1% increase over the first half of 2016.The first half forecast for imports for the first half of 2017 was mildly upgraded from 9.5 million TEU to 9.6 million TEU, which is a 6.4% increase over the first half of 2016. Total 2016 volume at 18.8 million TEU was up 3.1% annually.These estimates again match up well with the NRF’s projection of retail sales rising between 3.7 and 4.2% in 2017, excluding automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, compared to 2016. It explained that these gains are expected to be paced by the combination of job and income growth and low debt. And it added that cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales, due to the fact that only the number of containers is counted and not the value of cargo inside, explaining that it still provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett wrote in the report that the first half of 2017 saw solid import growth despite all the bluster coming out of Washington, adding that the “new swamp seems to spend more time tweeting that dealing with its proposals on raising tariffs and border taxes.”And Hackett added that there are various potential challenges of the Trump administration’s trade efforts.“Some actions to date appear to have alienated traditional allies and are causing them to work more closely together, leaving the United States on the sidelines,” he wrote. “’America First’ may well result in protectionist actions that will cut the United States off from the benefits of the global value chain and economic growth for U.S. importers and exporters. That could result in trade wars in the form of retaliatory measures taken by the European Union, China and Japan.”