Import cargo volumes at major retailer ports in the US are expected to rise 2.3% this month as talks aimed at avoiding strike action continue.

Meanwhile, the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates showed that volumes fell 2.8% on last year in November, and were down 8.6% compared to October.

December's figures are expected to be up 6.5% at 1.3m Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) as retailers stocked up ahead of threatened strike action at the end of the year.

However, the strike talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the US Maritime Alliance have been extended until 6 February, with union and management due to meet this week.

The strike would involve 15,000 dock workers at 14 ports on the East and Gulf Coasts from Maine to Texas, handling 40% of the country’s ocean cargo – having “devastating implications” for the retail industry, the NRF has warned.

“The strike deadline came and went at the end of December, but the threat of closing down nearly half our nation’s port capacity has only been postponed, not eliminated,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold.

“The uncertainty of what will happen in February has retailers implementing expensive contingency plans yet again and is a burden our economy cannot afford.”

Global Port Tracker is forecasting increases in monthly import cargo volumes in each of the next four months – strikes permitting.