Delaware Public Media

Steel tariffs could hurt Port of Wilmington

Mar 7, 2018

The Trump Administration’s decision to impose tariffs on steel imports could have some effect on ports along the Delaware River, including the Port of Wilmington.

The Port of Wilmington unloads about five ships carrying around 50,000 tons of steel from Sweden each winter. Not nearly as much as some ports upriver, but Port of Wilmington Marketing Director John Haroldson say it’s an important cargo Wilmington can compete for.

“On a ship there might be 50 people working. So these ships are typically three days, ten hour days. So 500 man hours something like that,” said Haroldson.

President Trump is expected to authorize sweeping tariffs on imported steel Thursday, but the new law may exempt some close allies.

Haroldson says he thinks the Swedish steel will continue to come through Wilmington, but adds a tax on the cargo could result in a reduced tonnage on those ships. He also says shipments of more than 50,000 cars from Wilmington to the Middle East each year could be affected.

“Say those vehicle costs go up and then those countries in the Middle East can’t afford those GMs or Chryslers, and then that volume decreases. Well then that’s cargo, that’s tonnage, that’s man-hours et cetera that would be lost to the port,” said Haroldson.

Both the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay and the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce released statements opposing the tariffs.