U.S. Imports Surging Earlier than Normal

The U.S. logistics and supply chain industry typically experiences a seasonal shipping surge from around late summer to early fall each year as shippers, especially retailers, prepare for the busier shopping that happens in the later months of the calendar year.  However, amid rising tensions in international trade relations, U.S. seaborne imports have surged earlier than usual as retailers stock up ahead of peak season.

Year-over-year imports for the month of June in America’s two busiest container ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, rose a combined total of 8.4% for the month of June compared to the same month in 2017, with the Port of Long Beach recording an all-time-high twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) shipment count of 752,188.  “Peak season has come early, so to speak,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, Calif., the nation’s second-largest container port.

The early shipping surge is partly due to the increased anxiety over the tariffs that the Trump administration will soon be imposing on $34 billion in Chinese goods – with promises to levy another $216 billion soon – suppliers are doing their best to stock up on these goods months before the standard North American fall peak-freight season.

Between the late summer and early fall, North American freight markets typically experience one of several annual peaks as the ever-present rise of e-commerce shipping and increased consumer expenditure drives vendors to stock up before the holiday season. This year, with the capacity crunch in shipping and the anxiety caused by the impending tariffs, it appears peak season has moved up a few months, now jamming into the already capped shipping market as we reach the end of peak of produce season.

In a press release from the Port of Long Beach, Executive Director Mario Cordero said, “We are on track to beat our historic pace from 2017,” adding, “Certainly the escalating trade tensions have everyone in the industry concerned, but we’re going to continue to provide excellent customer service and fulfill our mission of facilitating commerce.” Mr. Cordero reported in the Wall Street Journal that 70% of the port’s total import volume is directly related to China, and of that 70%, 7% will be affected by the first round of the tariffs., and with even more sizable tariffs on the way in the near future, we may soon experience paradigm shifting changes to the logistics marketplace.

June Port TEU Shipment Increases:

  • Port of Oakland:
    • Year-over-Year June % Change:
      • +8.7%
    • Total TEU Imports for June:
      • 87,207
  • Port of Los Angeles:
    • Year-over-Year June % Change:
      • -1.1%
    • Total TEU Imports for June:
      • 723,141
  • Port of Long Beach:
    • Year-over-Year June % Change:
      • +14.2%
    • Total TEU Imports for June:
      • 752,188