Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports reached unusually high numbers just before new tariffs on goods from China took effect September 1, and are expected to surge again before another round of tariffs takes effect in December, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“Retailers are still trying to minimize the impact of the trade war on consumers by bringing in as much merchandise as they can before each new round of tariffs takes effect and drives up prices,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
New 15 percent tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect at the beginning of this month and are scheduled to be expanded to additional goods on December 15 – covering a total of about $300 billion in imports. In addition, 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports already imposed over the past year will increase to 30 percent on October 1.
U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.96 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 9.1 percent from June and up 2.9 percent year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
Numbers were high again in August, which was estimated at 1.93 million TEU, up 1.8 percent year-over-year. September is forecast at 1.85 million, down 0.7 percent from last year; October at 1.92 million TEU, down 5.5 percent; November at 1.97 million TEU, up 8.8 percent, and December at 1.77 million TEU, down 9.8 percent.
Likely driven by the new tariffs scheduled for December, November’s 1.97 million TEU would be the highest monthly total since the record 2 million TEU seen in October 2018.
The first half of 2019 totaled 10.5 million TEU, up 2.1 percent over the first half of 2018, and 2019 is expected to see a new record of 21.9 million TEU. That would be up 0.7 percent from last year’s previous record of 21.8 million TEU, which rose 6.2 percent over 2017.
January 2020 is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, down 4.5 percent from January 2019.
Click here to access the National Retail Federation website for the entire release, including comments from NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, Jonathan Gold, and Hackett Associates Founder, Ben Hackett.