NRF: As Tariff Threat Looms, Imports Continue To Grow

Despite facing the possibility of additional tariffs on goods from China, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to grow throughout the summer, according to a recent Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.54 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in March, down 8.6% from February because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia but off only 0.7% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

April was estimated at 1.73 million TEU, up 6.4% year-over-year. May is forecast at 1.82 million TEU, up 4.3% from last year; June also at 1.82 million TEU, up 6.1%; July at 1.9 million TEU, up 5.5%; August at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.6%, and September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1%.

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% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2017 was 20.5 million TEU, up 7.6% from 2016’s previous record of 19.1 million TEU.

“With proposed tariffs yet to be officially imposed, retailers are stocking up on merchandise that could soon cost considerably more,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy with the NRF. “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.”