NRF: Imports Rise But Tariffs Cloud Future Growth

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports are expected to grow 5.8% year-over-year this month but could be threatened in the future if the developing tariff dispute and potential trade war between the U.S. and China continues to escalate, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Tariffs are a tax on American consumers in the form of higher prices but they are also a tax on American jobs,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain and customs policy, NRF. “If tariffs ultimately lead to a reduction in imports and exports, that will put dockworkers and countless others in the supply chain out of work.”

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.69 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in February, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 4.1% from January but up 15.8% from a year ago, with the year-over-year number skewed because of fluctuations in when Lunar New Year factory shutdowns occur in Asia each year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

March is estimated at 1.54 million TEU, down 1.2% year-over-year. April is forecast at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.8% from last year; May at 1.82 million TEU, up 4.1%; June at 1.83 million TEU, up 6.5 %; July at 1.88 million TEU, up 4.5%, and August at 1.9 million TEU, up 3.9%.

The first half of 2018 is expected to total 10.4 million TEU, an increase of 5.6% 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.