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Steel imports grabbed a record 29 percent market share in 2015

Longshoremen work to unload coils of steel from the hold of The Federal at the The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in 2014. Steel imports grabbed 29 percent of the market share last year.

Last year, steel imports flooded into American ports, costing steelmakers sales volume and pricing power, and wreaking havoc on an already struggling industry.

Now it's official: from the perspective of U.S. steelmakers, 2015 was the worst year for steel imports ever.

Imports captured a record 29 percent of the U.S. market share last year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. U.S. Steel and other domestic steelmakers say imports were often dumped and subsidized, a cost advantage U.S. steel companies don't have and which is banned under international trade laws.

However, the total tonnage of imports into the United States declined year-over-year as worldwide steel demand slackened. Finished imports dropped by 7 percent, while total imports fell by 13 percent.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States imported 38.7 million net tons of steel in 2015, including 31.4 million tons of finished steel products. On an average year, U.S. steel mills typically forge around 90 million tons of steel.

Finished steel products took 29 percent of the market share for the year, up from the previous record of 28 percent in 2014. In December, imports captured 26 percent of the market share, continuing a slowing trend that's occurred since domestic steelmakers won a few trade cases they filed last summer. China and other countries now face tariffs as high as 255 percent.

The United States imported 2.3 million net tons of steel in December, including 2 million net tons of finished steel, a 3.2 percent increase over November.

Wire rod imports shot up by 77 percent in December, tin plate climbed by 71 percent, cut length plates rose by 65 percent, and heavy structural shapes increased by 46 percent. Over the course of the year, imports of reinforcing bar and standard pipe posted the biggest gains.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.