Port Tracker says import records could be broken in the summer months

New records are expected to be hit in three of the following months-with July at 1.88 million TEU for a 4.1% annual gain; August at 1.91 million TEU for a 4% increase; and September at 1.83 million TEU for 2.3% improvement-each expected to top the previous record of August 2017’s 1.83 million TEU for a single month.

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Records for United States-bound retail container shipments could be broken this summer, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates.

The ports surveyed in the report include Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, Jacksonville, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades. Authors of the report explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.

“Consumers are buying more and that means retailers are importing more,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said in a statement. “Imports continue to be the primary source of high-quality, mass-produced necessities at affordable prices and will be for the foreseeable future. If tariffs are imposed on consumer goods, that will only drive up prices for American families while doing little or nothing to punish those responsible for unfair trade practices.”

For April, the most recent month for which data is available, U.S.-based retail container ports came in at 1.63 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), which was 5.8% below March and up 0.3% annually. May was pegged to hit 1.77 million TEU for a 1.3% annual gain, and June is estimated at 1.78 million TEU for a 3.7% increase.

After that, new records are expected to be hit in three of the following months-with July at 1.88 million TEU for a 4.1% annual gain; August at 1.91 million TEU for a 4% increase; and September at 1.83 million TEU for 2.3% improvement-each expected to top the previous record of August 2017’s 1.83 million TEU for a single month. September is expected to be up 2.3% at 1.83 million TEU, which would match August 2017.

Port Tracker added that the first half of 2018 is estimated to be up 3.8% annually at 10.2 million TEU.

“Despite an environment where the U.S. administration is enacting measures that could well lead to a trade war with most of its Asian and European trading partners, we see import growth year-on-year through the first four months of 2018 at most of the tracked ports,” wrote Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett in the report. “There are nevertheless growing signs of concern as revised second-quarter gross domestic product data shows less growth than anticipated. The Purchasing Managers Index for US manufacturers remained buoyant in April with output and new orders up sharply in response to solid consumer demand. This suggests that neither industry nor consumers really believe that President Trump will push through with his proposed ‘national security’ tariffs. Let’s hope that they are right.”

In a recent interview with LM, Hackett explained that he believes that a fair amount of import growth may be due to stockbuilding in case of tariffs as a number of economic indicators are suggesting a slowdown.

"The key risk these days is the anti-Iran agreement policy and the continued effort by the Trump Administration to withdraw from the global stage," he said.  "Pax Americana appears to be waning as a result."


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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