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            december 08, 2019

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Port tracker expects US import cargo surge


Imports through America's leading retail ports are expected to see their final surge of the year this month ahead of new tariffs set to take effect in December, according to the Global Port Tracker from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
"Retailers are highly competitive, but the ability to compete has been challenging this year because of the uncertainty of the trade war and continued tariff escalation," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold.
An October tariff increase was cancelled and news reports last week indicate that some tariffs could be removed, but there has been no word on a new round of tariffs on consumer goods currently scheduled to take effect December 15.
NRF will host a news conference next week in Washington where officials from the Port of Los Angeles and other groups will discuss the impact of the trade war.
"Industry planning is in a state of confusion with the on-again, off-again tariff increases and the widening of trade disputes," Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said. "Where is all of this leading us? As long as consumer spending remains relatively stable, economic growth "despite being weaker - will keep the country on track for the next year."
US ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.87 million TEU in September, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 0.2 per cent year-on-year but was down 4.7 per cent from August, when imports saw their second-highest level on record - 1.97 million TEU - ahead of tariffs that took effect September 1.
October was estimated at 1.93 million, down 5.2 per cent from last year's record two million TEU. November is forecast at 1.96 million TEU, up 8.3 per cent year on year and tying last December and this July for the third-highest number of containers in a single month. But imports are expected to fall to 1.78 million TEU in December, down 9.2 per cent from near-record numbers last year ahead of scheduled tariffs that were later postponed.
The expected drop from November will come as December's tariffs take effect, but the month historically sees a falloff in imports because most holiday merchandise has already arrived.
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 see a new annual record of 22 million TEU. That would be up one per cent from last year's previous record of 21.8 million TEU.
January 2020 is forecast at 1.85 million TEU, down 2.3 per cent from January 2019. February - traditionally the slowest month of the year because of Chinese New Year factory shutdowns in Asia - is forecast at 1.59 million TEU, down 2.1 per cent from a year ago. March is forecast at 1.76 million TEU, up an unusually high 9.1 per cent because of fluctuations in the Chinese New Year calendar.
Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville and Houston.

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