Near record US import volumes expected to continue: Port Tracker

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IMPORTS through major US container ports are expected to continue at near-record levels this month and the remainder of the year despite a new round of tariffs on goods from China, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

"Even with virtually everything American imports from China soon to be subject to tariffs, it isn't quick or easy for retailers to change their supply chains," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.

US President Donald Trump announced last week that new 10 per cent tariffs on an additional US$300 billon in Chinese goods will take effect on September 1. Coupled with 25 per cent tariffs imposed on $250 billion worth of imports over the past year, the new round will tax almost all goods the United States imports from China.

Meanwhile, America's tariff bill continues to grow. According to data released this week by the Tariffs Hurt the Heartland coalition, American importers paid $6 billion in tariffs in June, one of the highest-tariffed months in US history and up 74 per cent from the same month last year.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the 10 per cent tariffs would not likely have an immediate impact on import volumes but an increase to 25 per cent - as happened earlier this year with the most recent previous round of tariffs - "would have a significant impact and would cause us to lower our trade projections further".

US ports covered by the survey handled 1.8 million TEU in June, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 2.9 per cent from May and down three per cent year on year. July was estimated at 1.86 million TEU, down 2.6 per cent year on year.

August is forecast at 1.91 million TEU, up 0.6 per cent; September at 1.85 million, down 1.1 per cent; October at 1.91 million TEU, down 6.2 per cent; November at 1.84 million TEU, up 1.8 per cent, and December at 1.81 million TEU, down 7.9 per cent.

The August and October numbers would be the highest monthly volumes since 1.96 million TEU last December, tying for the third-highest month on record behind that and the all-time record of 2 billion TEU set last October.

While imports will decline year on year most months during the remainder of this year, that is largely because of high volumes seen last year as retailers rushed to bring in merchandise ahead of scheduled tariff increases.

The first half of 2019 totalled 10.5 million TEU, up 2.1 per cent over the first half of 2018, and 2019 is expected to total 21.7 million TEU. That would come within 0.4 per cent of last year's record 21.8 million TEU, which was up an unusually high 6.2 per cent over 2017.

Source: Schednet

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