U.S. container imports steady in March

Date: Monday, May 14, 2018
Source: American Shipper

 Major retail ports in the United States handled 1.54 million TEUs of containerized imports in March, a decrease of 0.7 percent compared with the same month a year ago, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
   On a sequential basis, U.S. container imports fell 8.6 percent from February, according to the report, as a result of annual factory shutdowns in Asia for Lunar New Year.
   The NRF projected imports to rise in the coming months in anticipation of recently announced tariffs on goods from China, but also continued to warn of the potential negative effects on cargo imports should the countries end up in a full-scale trade war.
   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:
     • April at 1.73 million TEUs, up 6.4 percent;
     • May at 1.82 million TEUs, up 4.3 percent;
     • June at 1.82 million TEUs, up 6.1 percent;
     • July at 1.9 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent;
     • August at 1.92 million TEUs, up 4.6 percent.
     • And September at 1.82 million TEUs, up 2.1 percent.
   The NRF noted that the forecasts for July and August would each set new all-time records for container import volumes in a single month, beating the previous high of 1.83 million TEU in August 2017.
   Should the projections hold true, combined first-half volumes would reach a total of 10.4 million TEUs, an increase of 5.8 percent over the first half of 2017.
   For the full year in 2017, import volumes at major U.S. retail ports surged 7.6 percent to a record 20.5 million TEUs compared with the previous year.
   President Donald Trump’s administration and China’s Ministry of Commerce last month kicked off a tit-for-tat tariff battle that potentially puts several high-profile U.S. industries like retail and agriculture — not to mention the U.S. port sector —  at risk.
   NRF Vice President for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said at the time that tariffs are harmful for consumers in that they raise prices for everyday goods, but also noted the potential for job widespread losses.
   “If tariffs ultimately lead to a reduction in imports and exports, that will put dockworkers and countless others in the supply chain out of work,” he said. “American consumers and workers should not be punished for China’s wrongdoing.”
   In the association’s latest report, Gold said retailers have been stocking up on merchandise that could become “considerably” more expensive if and when those tariffs are officially imposed.
   “If tariffs do take effect, there’s no quick or easy way to switch where these products come from,” he said. “American families will simply be stuck paying higher prices and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost.”
   “Despite the threats and risks to trade, we continue to see solid expansion and our models are projecting this to continue throughout the year,” added Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “This is driven by a high level of confidence as the economy remains strong and unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly two decades.”
   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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