Trade War Strands Ship With $20 Million In U.S. Soybeans Off China

The cargo owners are still deciding what to do after failing to beat China's imposition of a 25 percent tariff.

A ship packed with $20 million in American soybeans has been chugging in circles off the coast of China after failing to beat the imposition of retaliatory tariffs in the nation’s trade war with the Trump administration.

The Peak Pegasus, owned by JP Morgan Asset Management, raced to China hoping to clear customs before China slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans to strike back against Trump administration tariffs, The Guardian reported. 

It was scheduled to unload about 77,000 ton of U.S. soybeans in the northern Chinese port of Dalian on July 6. But it arrived too late and has been idling in the Yellow Sea ever since. It missed the deadline by just hours. 

The ship will likely stay off the coast while owners of the cargo — believed to be agricultural commodities trading house Louis Dreyfus Co., based in Amsterdam — decide what to do, The Guardian reported.

The ship has become an internet sensation on the Chinese social media platform Weibo as users cheered it on to make it in time to dodge the tariffs. The Peak Pegasus was trending in China, beating out World Cup tweets, reported Reuters. The ship left Seattle on June 8.

“Good luck bro!” said one Weibo user.

It costs about $12,500 a day to continue chartering the ship, according to The Guardian. So total costs to date to keep hanging around are already more than $400,000.

Some experts believe it could still make economic sense to keep the beans at sea, even possibly for months, depending on what the future holds. China, the world’s biggest importer of soybeans, could end up making a deal for the beans if it can’t find enough alternative suppliers.

Soybeans are the top U.S. agricultural export to China. The trade was worth $12.7 billion last year, Reuters noted.

A similar drama is taking place in Washington state, where a delivery of 6,000 tons of copper that was supposed to be loaded on a ship to China next Monday is stuck at the port of Vancouver. The ship scheduled to pick it up has turned around since China announced its latest round of proposed tariffs, including a  25 percent duty on copper.

“These mountains of copper ore are going nowhere now,” Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4 in Vancouver, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that nearly a million jobs in Washington state are supported by trade and could be at risk.  

The tariffs not only affect suppliers of goods hit with tariffs but also port income and the wages of the workers who unload and load goods at port.