U.S. Retail Imports Slow Down

Port of Charleston, U.S.
Port of Charleston, U.S.

By The Maritime Executive 11-10-2018 05:23:24

Imports at the U.S.’s major retail container ports have slowed down from their pre-holiday peak but remain at unusually high levels as retailers continue bringing in merchandise before tariffs increase in January, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Imports have usually dropped off significantly by this time of year, but we’re still seeing numbers that could have set records in the past,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Part of this is driven by consumer demand in the strong economy, but retailers also know that tariffs on the latest round of goods are set to more than double in just a few weeks. If there are shipments that can be moved up, it makes sense to do that before the price goes up.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.87 million TEUs in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1.3 percent from August but up 4.6 percent year-over-year. 

October was estimated at 1.89 million TEUs, up 5.5 percent year-over-year. November is forecast at 1.81 million TEUs, up 2.8 percent, and December at 1.79 million TEUs, up 3.8 percent. January 2019 is forecast at 1.81 million TEUs, up 2.8 percent over January 2018; February at 1.7 million TEUs, up 0.4 percent year-over-year, and March at 1.59 million TEUs, up 3.3 percent.

Imports set a monthly record of 1.9 million TEUs in July ahead of 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in goods from China that took effect in September and are scheduled to rise to 25 percent in January. While not overall records, October, November and December’s numbers are each the highest on record for those months. Before this year, the highest monthly number on record was 1.83 million TEUs set in August 2017.

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 TEU.

The Global Port Tracker 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.