U.S. waterborne shipments see growth in April, reports Panjiva

April shipments, at 994,492, rose 3.5% compared to March, which was up 6.8% compared to February. On a year-to-date basis, shipments for the first four months of 2019, at 3,893,067, are up 2.9%. The firm added that containerized freight was up 4.4% in April.

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United States-bound waterborne shipments headed up for the second straight month in April, according to data recently issued by global trade intelligence firm . These two months of gains followed a decline in February, which was the first decline in 24 months.

April shipments, at 994,492, rose 3.5% compared to March, which was up 6.8% compared to February. On a year-to-date basis, shipments for the first four months of 2019, at 3,893,067, are up 2.9%. The firm added that containerized freight was up 4.4% in April.

Panjiva noted that April arguably marks the first “normalized” month imports on the heels of Lunar New Year seasonality, coupled with the disruptions from previous implementations of tariffs on imports from China. And it also noted that this could also mark the last normal period for a while, too, following the White House’s increase to 25% from 10% on roughly $200 billion of imports from China.

Imports from China to the U.S. in April were up 2% annually, a sign that tariffs are impacting import levels, Panjiva said. And when excluding China, imports from Asia were up 5.9%, and paced by a 29.3% gain in imports from Vietnam. The company said this may indicate a “continued process of reshoring by manufacturers seeking to avoid duties, as well as a longer term trend towards labor cost sourcing.”

The tariff tension was apparent in product data from Panjiva, too, with furniture imports down 2.2%, following the 10% tariffs on Chinese imports last September, which rose to 25% for all products leaving China effective May 10, which Panjiva said could result in further declines. Chemical imports slipped 11.9%, as most of these shipments already have 25% tariffs, and autos were off 12.7% with Panjiva citing weak sales and the looming section 232 tariff decision.

“When you put it all together, April was a better month than expected,” said , in an interview. “I think that probably speaks to consumer and industrial demand still being robust and people still buying stuff from somewhere that is not China. While there may be a bit of a slowdown, there will still be growth, which seems to be the theme of the day.”

That theme comes at a time when many retailers have recently noted that recent and future tariffs will result in a costs pass along to consumers, despite President Trump long maintaining that tariffs are paid for by the country of origin.

“Retailers have made it clear that consumers will be stuck with paying for the increased costs from tariffs,” he said. “This could go in a few different directions. One is costs being passed along to consumers, and consumer demand comes down because it is effectively a tax increase. Another is that retailers may need to make changes in their supply chains and buy goods from Vietnam or somewhere else [not China]. Or they can go back to their Chinese suppliers and say ‘we want you to cut your prices and you to take on some of the sales tax, or tariffs, and we share in the pain.’”  

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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