U.S. Imports Set Three New Records This Summer

U.S. port
File image courtesy Jaxport

By The Maritime Executive 09-13-2018 08:43:03

With retail sales continuing to grow, imports at the U.S.’s major retail container ports are expected to remain strong this month after setting three new records this summer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

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 TEUs and June’s 1.85 million TEUs. The previous record of 1.83 million TEUs was set in August 2017.

Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.9 million TEUs in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.8 percent from June and up 5.6 percent year-over-year. 

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

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

“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,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retail sales are growing stronger than expected this year thanks to tax cuts and job creation, but tariffs are the wild card that threaten to throw away a significant portion of those benefits.”

While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the record imports mirror strong spring and summer results expected to continue through the remainder of the year. Retail sales as calculated by NRF – excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations – were up 4.9 percent year-over-year in July and up five percent on a three-month moving average. NRF revised its annual spending forecast this summer to say 2018 sales are now expected to be up at least 4.5 percent over 2017 rather than the 3.8 to 4.4 percent previously forecast.

Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.