US East Coast ports ride pre-tariff surge

The Port of Charleston in 2007 Photo: Christopher Sims/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 The Port of Charleston in 2007 Photo: Christopher Sims/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

The Port of Charleston, as well as other East Coast ports, have witnessed a large rise in imports as overseas shippers seek to get ahead of extra tariffs put in place by US President Donald Trump.

According to Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier, in October, the amount of imported cargo containers moving through the Charleston port went up by 15.1%, to 92,947 cargo boxes, compared with the same month the year before — a signal that customers from abroad are shipping items early to avoid greater levies set to come into force in January next year.

The cargo boxes figure was 16% more than that for September this year.

Imported containers have increased 10.1% during the first four months of the fiscal year (which began on July 1).

Included in the top import commodities are tyres, furniture and auto parts — all of which are due to be affected by taxes on Chinese goods set to go up in January from 10% to 25%.

According to South Carolina Ports Authority president and chief executive Jim Newsome, on top of a robust economy, there is growing evidence that the spike in imports is because of customers advancing shipments to avoid levies planned to go into effect in January.

Virginia and Georgia ports additionally recorded double-digit import growth in October, while global logistics consultant Panjiva said that shipments to the US hit a record high that month.

October’s 1.13m+ containers destined for the US constituted a figure around 11% greater than a year previously and represented the fastest monthly growth since March 2014.

However, exports in Charleston have slowed, with containers bound for foreign markets down 1.4% in October after a 15.1% fall the month before.

During the fiscal year’s first four months, exports have declined 1.1%.

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