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US containerised imports remain strong ahead of tariff increases

Imports at major US ports have slowed down from the pre-holiday peak but remain at unusually high as retailers continue ship in good before tariffs bite in January, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates

US containerised imports remain strong ahead of tariff increases
11 November 2018 - 19:00

Imports at major US ports have slowed down from the pre-holiday peak but remain at unusually high as retailers continue ship in good before tariffs bite in January, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation (NRF) 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,?said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.



'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.'



Said Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates: 'President Trump?s trade war with China and the threat of even higher tariffs in 2019 have created a mini boom in imports and businesses have rushed to bring goods into the country ahead of the tariffs. We are clearly in a politically motivated trade environment.'



US ports covered by the Global Port Tracker handled 1.87 million TEU in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 1.3 per cent from August but up 4.6 per cent year on year.



October was estimated at 1.89 million TEU, up 5.5 per cent year on year. November is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.8 per cent, and December at 1.79 million TEU, up 3.8 per cent. January is forecast at 1.81 million TEU, up 2.8 per cent; February at 1.7 million TEU, up 0.4 per cent and March at 1.59 million TEU up 3.3 per cent.



Imports set a monthly record of 1.9 million TEU in July ahead of 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion in goods from China that took effect in September and are scheduled to rise to 25 per cent 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 TEU set in August 2017.



The first half of 2018 totalled 10.3 million TEU, an increase of 5.1 per cent over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4 million TEU, an increase of 4.4 per cent over last year's record 20.5 million TEU.





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