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US tariff proposal hits port equipment

The proposed tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports to the US announced on Tuesday 3 April appear to include at least some types of port equipment.

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In response to what the Trump administration claims is a calculated policy of unfair treatment of US investors and companies, intellectual property theft and espionage targeted at US companies in China, the US has announced a proposed 25% tariff increase (on top of any existing tariffs) on some 1300 Chinese goods imported into China.

Details of the proposed tariffs were released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative. It is important to note that tariffs are not usually applied to goods and manufacturers individually, but are set for classes of goods under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS).

Based on the list published by the Trade Representative, WorldCargo News believes the 25% tariff will apply to reachstackers, forklifts, straddle carriers and certain spare parts (wire rope for example). WorldCargo News strongly cautions, however, that classification of goods under the US tariff system is not our expertise and readers should investigate carefully for themselves.

“Cranes” in general fall under the 8426 HTS code, which covers the very broad group of “Ships’ derricks; cranes, including cable cranes; mobile lifting frames, straddle carriers and works trucks fitted with a crane”, as well as “overhead traveling cranes, transporter cranes, gantry cranes and bridge cranes.”

The HTS codes specifically listed in the tariff proposal are:

  • 84261100 Overhead traveling cranes on fixed support
  • 84261200 Mobile lifting frames on tires and straddle carriers
  • 84262000 Tower cranes
  • 84264100 Derricks, cranes and other lifting machinery nesi*, self-propelled, on tires
  • 84264900 Derricks, cranes and other lifting machinery nesi, self-propelled, not on tires
  • 84269900 Derricks, cranes and other lifting machinery nesi

It is not clear whether any of the above categories would capture STS cranes, ASCs, RMG and RTGs. It is known that some other countries apply the HTS code 84261900 to these cranes, but as they do not attract tariffs in the US (currently) “container cranes” are not listed specifically in the US HTS schedule.

It is known, however, that HTS 84264100 applies to reachstackers. This was determined back in 1997, when Mi-Jack products was importing Fantuzzi reachstackers and applied unsuccessfully to have them reclassified under the 8427 forklift truck category.

Forklift trucks will also come under the tariff proposal, with four classes of forklift included:

  • 84271040 Self-propelled works trucks powered by an electric motor, rider type forklift trucks.
  • 84271080 Self-propelled works trucks powered by an electric motor, fitted with lifting and handling equipment.
  • 84272040 Self-propelled works trucks not powered by an electric motor, rider type forklift trucks.
  • 84272080 Self-propelled works trucks not powered by an electric motor, fitted with lifting and handling equipment.

It appears that most FLTS and container handling liftrucks used in port applications would fall under the above categories.

The tariff notice is not yet final, and the notice is subject to public comments and a public hearing on 15 May, 2018. If the tariffs are implemented they will obviously have a significant impact on the competitiveness of Chinese manufactured port equipment in the US, as well as US trade with China in general.

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