Mainly, as reported by Global Port Tracker, the US ports handled 1.81 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. Although that was increased by 2.5% year-over-year, it was decreased by 11.4% from the record of 2.04 million TEU set in October. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

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December was estimated at 1.79 million TEU, a 3.7 % year-over-year increase. That would bring 2018 to a total of 21.6 million TEU, an increase of 5.3 % over 2017’s record 20.5 million TEU.

Concerning 2019, NRF foresees that:

  • January will experience a decrease by 0.9%, reaching the 1.75 million TEU, in comparison to the same month in during 2018
  • February at 1.67 million TEU, down by 0.9 % year-over-year
  • March at 1.55 million TEU,  expecting an increase by 0.6 %
  • April at 1.69 million TEU, grown by 3.7 %
  • May at 1.8 million TEU, experiencing a decrease by 1.3%.

February and March are usually two of the slowest months of the year for imports, both because of the post-holiday drop in demand and because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.

As stated by Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, retailers are still concerned about tariffs and the impact they'll have on the nation's economy. He continued stating that retailers have already brought their spring products to protect consumers against higher prices because of tariffs.

Finally, Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, noted that there have already been record-high levels on imports. Yet, they foresee decreasing volumes in the coming months and a general weakness in imports in the first half of 2019.