US Container Imports Still Strong as Tariff Increase Approaches

cameron-venti-1126957-unsplash-1024x578Containership in Long Beach, Ca. Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports have dipped since peaks seen last fall but remain at higher-than-usual levels as a possible increase in tariffs on goods from China approaches in March, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates said. 

“With trade talks with China still unresolved, retailers appear to be bringing spring merchandise into the country early in case tariffs go up in March,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, noted.

“We are hopeful that the talks will succeed, but until the trade war is behind us, retailers need to do what they can to mitigate the higher prices that will inevitably come with tariffs,” he added.

US tariffs of 10 percent on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods that took effect last September are scheduled to increase to 25 percent on March 1 unless negotiations that began in December are successful.

US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.97 million TEUs in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 8.8 percent from November and 13.9 percent year-over-year. That brought 2018 to a record 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2 percent over 2017’s previous record of 20.5 million TEU.

January was estimated at 1.83 million TEU, up 4.1 percent from January 2018. February is forecast at 1.78 million TEU, up 5.7 percent year-over-year; March at 1.6 million TEU, up 3.8 percent; April at 1.76 million TEU, up 7.7 percent; May at 1.89 million TEU, up 3.4 percent, and June at 1.86 million TEU, up 0.3 percent. That would bring the first half of 2019 to 10.7 million TEU, up 4.1 percent over the first half of 2018.

“US containerized imports continue to be robust with retailers and other businesses trying to beat potential tariff increases in March. The problem is that warehouses and storage facilities are running out of space,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, said.

Global Port Tracker covers the US ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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