Volumes still strong in run-up to tariffs, as retailers ramp up imports.
The Port of Long Beach says September container volumes fell from a year ago, but fiscal year volumes hit a new record. The results come just ahead of the tariffs the U.S. imposed on $200 billion in Chinese imports.
The second largest port by container volume, Long Beach saw loaded inbound containers fall 2.5% from a year ago to 357,301 twenty foot equivalent units (teu) last month. With empty containers seeing a small increase, overall September activity was flat at 701,205 teus.
The 2018 fiscal year saw Long Beach handle just over 8 million teus, representing a 10.7% increase year-on-year. Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero says the gain came even as the U.S. is embroiled in a dispute with its largest trading partner.
“Despite the tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing, international trade is showing resilience,” Cordero said.
But the results came ahead of the start of tariffs on Chinese imports. The U.S. Trade Representative imposed tariffs of 10% on a wide variety of consumer goods coming into the U.S. starting September 24. The tariffs escalate to 25% by the start of next year.
Overall, the nation’s ports are expected to see some deceleration in September relative to August, but imports remain elevated thanks to a strong economy and U.S. consumer demand.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) says September container volumes are estimated to be 1.84 million teus, a 2.7% increase from a year ago. But the growth is tapering as August volumes of 1.89 million teus came in at 3.4% growth for the year.
NRF vice president Jonathan Gold says the U.S. has put in tariffs on half of all goods coming from China. But that is doing little as yet to slow imports as retailers cannot quickly switch their supply chains.
“Retailers are doing their best to mitigate the impact on their customers, but they are not able to quickly or easily change their sourcing,” Gold said.
The first half of 2018 totaled 10.3 million teus, an increase of 5.1% 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 teus.