Retail imports are expected to rise 8.5% during February, as a tentative contract deal was reached with East Coast and Gulf Coast workers, but uncertainty remains around a key West Coast agreement.

The monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates showed that volumes rose 8% on last year in December, and were up 2.8% against November.

January's figures are expected to rise 4.6% to 1.34m Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU) from January 2012. The port tracker is also forecasting a 3.6% rise in March to 1.29 TEU, a 4.4% rise in April to 1.36TEU, a 6.2% rise in May to 1.45TEU and a 4.9% rise in June to 1.45 TEU.

The International Longshoremen's Association, and the US Maritime Alliance reached a tentative agreement on a contract that averted a strike that could have shut down East Coast and Gulf Coast ports from Maine to Texas. The agreement is subject to reaching supplemental local agreements and ratification by union members.

On Wednesday, however, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Local 63 Office Clerical Unit voted down a tentative agreement with the Harbor Employers Association that ended an eight-day strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November and December 2012.

Commenting on the port contract issues, NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said: "We were very happy to see a deal on a tentative contract for the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports but we are urging the parties to quickly work out any outstanding issues and ratify the agreement as soon as possible.

"We need a long-term labour contract in place to give retailers and the other industries that depend on the ports confidence that cargo will continue flowing. We were disappointed that the LA/Long Beach clerical workers' contract wasn't ratified, but are encouraging the parties to work through their differences without a disruption."