NRF: U.S. container imports to grow 4.9% in first half 2018

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Ports covered by the NRF’s Global Port Tracker report handled 20.5 million TEUs of imports in 2017, a year-over-year increase 7.6 percent.

   Imports at major retail container ports in the United States are expected to grow 4.9 percent in the first half of 2018, according to the latest monthly Global Port Tracker report by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
   The latest projection from NRF comes as ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report handled 1.72 million TEUs of imports in December 2017, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. Import volumes for the month were down 2.1 percent compared with November, as the majority of holiday merchandise had already arrived, but up 8.4 percent compared with December 2016.
   For the full year in 2017, import volumes at major U.S. retail ports surged 7.6 percent to a record 20.5 million TEUs compared with the previous year.
   Looking ahead, the Global Port Tracker report forecasts the following import figures for each month for ports covered across the Global Port Tracker, compared to the same month in 2017:
     • January at 1.77 million TEUs, up 4.1 percent;
     • February at 1.67 million TEUs, up 14.8 percent;
     • March at 1.54 million TEUs, down 1.1 percent;
     • April at 1.71 million TEUs, up 4.8 percent.
     • May at 1.8 million TEUs, up 2.8 percent.
     • And June at 1.8 million TEUs, up 4.9 percent.
   Should those projections hold true, combined first half volumes would reach a total of 10.3 million TEUs, an increase of 4.9 percent over the first half of 2017, but NRF noted that all of its projected figures are slightly higher than previously reported because the Port of Jacksonville in North Florida has been added to the report to “reflect its growing importance as a container port used by retailers.”
   “We’re forecasting significant sales growth this year and that means retailers will have to import more merchandise to meet consumer demand,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said of the projection. “With the benefits of pro-growth tax reform coming on top of solid fundamentals like higher employment and improved confidence, we expect a good year ahead.”
   “It’s clear that 2017 turned out to be a remarkable year in terms of import container volume,” added Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates. “That level of growth is difficult to sustain, however, and our models suggest that 2018 will continue to expand but only at about half that pace despite strong fundamentals that indicate a healthy economy and continued growth in consumer spending.”
   Global Port Tracker, which is produced by Hackett Associates for the NRF, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Port Everglades, Miami and Houston.

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