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, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates
“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,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “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.”
U.S. tariffs of 10 % on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese goods that took effect last September are scheduled to increase to 25 % on March 1 unless negotiations that began in December are successful.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.97 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in December, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 8.8 % from November and 13.9 % year-over-year. That brought 2018 to a record 21.8 million TEU, an increase of 6.2 % over 2017’s previous record of 20.5 million TEU. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
January was estimated at 1.83 million TEU, up 4.1 % from January 2018. February is forecast at 1.78 million TEU, up 5.7 % year-over-year; March at 1.6 million TEU, up 3.8 %; April at 1.76 million TEU, up 7.7 %; May at 1.89 million TEU, up 3.4 %, and June at 1.86 million TEU, up 0.3 %. That would bring the first half of 2019 to 10.7 million TEU, up 4.1 % over the first half of 2018.
“U.S. containerized imports continue to be robust with retailers and other businesses trying to beat potential tariff increases in March,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “The problem is that warehouses and storage facilities are running out of space.”
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. 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.
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing USD 2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.
Hackett Associates provides expert consulting, research and advisory services to the international maritime industry, government agencies and international institutions.