Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to grow this summer despite the prospect of tariffs on goods from China, according to the National Retail Federation.
“With proposed tariffs yet to be officially imposed, retailers are stocking up on merchandise that could soon cost considerably more,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If tariffs do take effect, there’s no quick or easy way to switch where these products come from. American families will simply be stuck paying higher prices and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost.”
According to the Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates, ports handled 1.54 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 8.6 percent from February because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia but down only 0.7 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
“Despite the threats and risks to trade, we continue to see solid expansion and our models are projecting this to continue throughout the year,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “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.”
April was estimated at 1.73 million TEU, up 6.4 percent year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.82 million TEU, up 4.3 percent from last year; June also at 1.82 million TEU, up 6.1 percent; July at 1.9 million TEU, up 5.5 percent; August at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.6 percent, and September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1 percent.
The numbers forecast for July and August would each set new records for the number of containers imported in a single month, beating the previous high of 1.83 million TEU in August 2017.
The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.8 percent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6 percent from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.