Record container imports forecast despite tariff talk

Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Source: American Shipper

 The National Retail Federation is projecting record volumes of containerized import cargoes to the United States for the coming summer and fall seasons despite a potential tariff battle with its closest trading partners.
   Major U.S. retail ports handled 1.63 million TEUs of containerized imports in April, a 0.3 percent uptick compared with the same month a year ago, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report from the NRF and Hackett Associates. On a sequential basis, U.S. container imports fell 5.8 percent from March.
   In its report, the NRF projected imports to rise in the coming months thanks to strong consumer spending, but also continued to warn of the potential negative effects on cargo imports should the United States end up in a full-scale trade war.
   “Consumers are buying more and that means retailers are importing more,” said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. “Imports continue to be the primary source of high-quality, mass-produced necessities at affordable prices and will be for the foreseeable future. If tariffs are imposed on consumer goods, that will only drive up prices for American families while doing little or nothing to punish those responsible for unfair trade practices.”
    Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, said, “Despite an environment where the U.S. administration is enacting measures that could well lead to a trade war with most of its Asian and European trading partners, we see imports continuing to grow.”
   He added that “solid” consumer demand has resulted in increased manufacturing orders. “This suggests that neither industry nor consumers really believe that President Trump will push through with his proposed tariffs. Let’s hope that they are right.”
   Looking ahead to the remainder of this year, the Global Port Tracker report forecasts the following import figures for each month for ports covered compared to the same month in 2017:
     • May at 1.77 million TEUs, up 1.3 percent;
     • June at 1.78 million TEUs, up 3.7 percent;
     • July at 1.88 million TEUs, up 4.2 percent;
     • August at 1.91 million TEUs, up 4 percent;
     • September at 1.83 million TEUs, up 2.3 percent;
     • And October at 1.9 million, up 5.7 percent.
   The NRF noted that the forecasts for July, August and October would each represent new all-time records for container import volumes in a single month, beating the previous high of 1.83 million TEUs set in August 2017.
   Should the projections hold true, combined first-half volumes would reach a total of 10.2 million TEUs, an increase of 3.8 percent from the first half of 2017.
   For the full year in 2017, import volumes at major U.S. retail ports surged 7.6 percent year-over-year to a record 20.5 million TEUs.
   Global Port Tracker, which is produced by Hackett Associates for the NRF, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston.

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