- Six major ports in Northern Europe achieved 12.1% growth in container volume from February through March, according to the Hackett Associates' North Europe Global Tracker report. At that pace, annual growth would reach 4.6%.
- Imports to the U.S. and Canada are forecast to rise by about 4.5% this year over 2017, while exports increase a bit faster (4.75%), Daniel Hackett, partner at Hackett Associates, told Supply Chain Dive.
- The continuation of tariff wars, however, have importers and exporters on edge, creating "unpredictability," Hackett said.
While port and trade growth is strong, there are, of course, still questions. The major concern, Hackett said, is the onset of "tariff wars" initiated by the United States.
"Our forecasts for both Europe and North America still anticipate that a full trade war will be avoided," he said. “Having said that, we have seen some increased import volumes into North America ahead of the implementation of tariffs that were likely the result of importers trying to beat potential cost increases. The preliminary round of tariffs would not directly impact container shipping, focused as they are on steel and aluminum, however, the second round of tariffs and the retaliatory ones that followed targeted agricultural cargo like fruit, soy beans, machine parts, chemicals and other cargo that is indeed transported in containers."
If those tariffs are enacted they would impact the Pacific Coast ports (agriculture) and the Gulf Coast ports (chemicals) more than the Atlantic ports, Hackett added. "It’s hard to project the true impact of how cargo volumes could be affected in the face of a full-blown trade war as it comes down to how many times will each government respond before either a truce is called or one side gives in."
That said, importers and exporters are casting a wary eye on the Trump administration and what Hackett calls its "unpredictability. Potential responses from the administration could certainly trigger a far-reaching trade war that results in lower global trade," he said. "The automotive industry is a good example, with raw input materials, parts and fully assembled vehicles all potentially under threat, which would harm both manufacturers and consumers."