Imports at the major retail container ports in the US have set another record reaching 2 million containers in a single month as retailers continued to bring merchandise into the country ahead of a now-postponed increase in tariffs on goods from China.
According to the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates’ report, the ports handled 2.04 million TEUs in October, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9 percent from September and up 13.6 percent year-over-year.
“President Trump has declared a temporary truce in the trade war, but these imports came in before that announcement was made,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“We hope that the temporary stand-down becomes permanent, but in the meantime there has been a rush to bring merchandise in before existing tariffs go up or new ones can be imposed.”
The October number was the highest for a single month since Global Port Tracker began counting cargo in 2000, topping the previous record of 1.9 million TEU set in July, which in turn had beat a record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017.
November was estimated at 2.01 million TEU, a 14 percent year-over-year increase that would have been a new record if not for the October number. December – normally a slow month with holiday merchandise already on the shelves – is forecast at 1.83 million TEU, up 6.1 percent year-over year.
Those numbers would bring 2018 to a total of 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.5 percent over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.
“We see a significant slowdown in import growth in 2019 as the market adjusts to higher prices due to the Trump tariffs and the impact on consumer and industry confidence going forward,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.
“We project that imports at our monitored ports will have grown significantly in 2018 but that there will be no import growth in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.”