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NRF: Imports Rise Ahead Of Tariffs

With concerns rising over proposed new tariffs on products from China, imports at the nation’s major retail container ports have set two new records this summer and are expected to set another in August, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Tariffs on most consumer products have yet to take effect but retailers appear to be getting prepared before that can happen,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “We’re seeing new record levels every month this summer. Much of that is to meet consumer demand as tax reform and a thriving economy drive retail sales, but part of it seems to be concern over what’s to come. The good news for consumers is that avoiding tariffs holds off price increases that will inevitably come if the reckless and misguided trade war is allowed to continue.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.85 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 1.6% from May and up 7.8% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

July was estimated at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.4% year-over-year. August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 4.4%; September at 1.82 million TEU, up 2.1%; October at 1.88 million, up 4.9%; November at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.6%, and December at 1.79 million TEU, up 4%.

The June number set a new record for the number of containers imported during a single month, beating the previous record of 1.83 million TEU set in August 2017. The July estimate, which is subject to revision when the numbers become final, appeared to take the record higher and August should set yet another record, according to the NRF.

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.