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NRF: Import Traffic Remains Strong As Retailers Watch Tariffs

As retail sales remain strong, traffic at the nation’s container ports continues to grow as well, according to the Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Ports covered by the monthly report handled 1.9 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in July, up 2.8% from June and up 5.6% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

“More tariffs could come any day, and retailers have been bringing in record amounts of merchandise ahead of that in order to mitigate the impact on their customers,” said Jonathan Gold, NRF vp/supply chain and customs policy. “Retail sales are growing stronger than expected this year thanks to tax cuts and job creation, but tariffs are the wild card that threatens to throw away a significant portion of those benefits.”

August was estimated at 1.92 million TEU, up 4.8% year-over-year. September is forecast at 1.83 million TEU, up 2.4%; October at 1.88 million, up 5%; November at 1.79 million TEU, up 1.7%, and December also at 1.79 million TEU, up 3.6%. January 2019 is forecast at 1.77 million TEU, up 0.4% over January 2018.

August was the third month in a row to set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, following July’s 1.9 million TEU and June’s 1.85 million TEU. The previous record of 1.83 million TEU was set in August 2017.

The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4% over last year’s record 20.5 million TEU.