US ports handled 1.9m Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in August

US ports handled 1.9m Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in August

Imports at the US major retail container ports are expected to remain at near-record levels this month despite a new round of tariffs that took effect in September, new figures suggest.

According to the latest Global Port Tracker report released by the NRF and Hackett Associates, ports handled 1.9m Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU) in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 0.6% from July but up 3.4% year-over-year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

September was estimated at 1.84m TEU, up 2.7% year-over-year, while October is forecast at 1.87m TEU, up 4.3%, and November at 1.8m TEU, up 2.3%.

Looking further ahead, December is estimated at 1.79m TEU, up 4%, and January 2019 is forecast at 1.77m TEU, up 0.7% over the prior year. February is forecast at 1.63m TEU, down 3.5% year-over-year.

Until this year, the record for the number of containers imported during a single month was 1.83m TEU, set in August 2017. But that record was broken this June, when 1.85m TEU were imported, and again in July, with 1.9m TEU. October will be the fifth month in a row to top last year's peak.

In the first half of 2018, total imports at major US retail container ports were 10.3m TEU, an increase of 5.1% over the first half of 2017. The total for 2018 is expected to reach 21.4m TEU, an increase of 4.4% over last year's record 20.5m TEU.

While cargo numbers do not correlate directly with sales, the imports mirror this year's strong retail sales, the NRF says. Last week it forecast that 2018 holiday season retail sales – excluding automobiles, restaurants and gasoline stations – will increase between 4.3% and 4.8% over last year. Retail sales for all of 2018 are forecast to be up at least 4.5% over 2017.

Click here to see how apparel imports into the US fared during the month of August.