The COVID pandemic was unprecedented. By nature, it was hard to predict the fallout. And the one thing no one predicted was that U.S. consumers would dramatically increase spending on goods as their ability to spend on services was constrained and that their lost income from unemployment would be counterbalanced by stimulus.
Data on freight rates and freight flows available on FreightWaves’ SONAR platform reveals just how unprecedented and off the charts the current container-import market has become.
Spot freight rates
Spot freight rates for boxes shipped from China to the West Coast (SONAR: FBXD.CNAW) were at $4,248 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU) as of Friday, according to the Freightos Baltic Daily Index. That’s up 173% from the same time last year.
Spot rates for boxes shipped from China to the East Coast (SONAR: FBXD.CNAE) were at $5,924 per FEU on Friday, up 100% year-on-year.
SONAR also tracks the number of customs filings for maritime imports. While each filing represents a different volume, it is a telling directional indicator. Nationwide (SONAR: CSTM.USA), filing volume was up 12% as of last Thursday, but there’s a caveat.
Customs filings go into the system only when cargo clears customs, but are accounted for on the date they arrived in port. Thus, in periods of high congestion – as exists today – near-term customs filings may be understated (because they will be accounted for later). Customs filings over time provide a clearer picture.
In that regard, U.S. maritime imports have been up year-on-year since August, at some times, by very high levels. In late November, import filings were up over 30% year-on-year.
Rail and trucking effects
The import surge is translating into increases for land-based transportation modes as well. Over the past six months loaded outbound 40-foot containers on rail from Los Angeles to Chicago (SONAR: ORAIL40L.LAXCHI) are up 26%. Loaded forty-footers on rail from New York/Jersey (SONAR: ORAIL40L.EWRCHI) are up 29% over the same period.
On the trucking side of the equation, in Los Angeles and Long Beach, despite congestion at the port, city outbound tender volume (SONAR: COTVI.LAX) is up 92% year on year.
Short outbound tender volume (SONAR: SOTVI.LAX) is up 51% year on year. And long outbound tender volume (SONAR: LOTVI.LAX) is up 34% year-on-year. Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Greg Miller
MORE ON CONTAINERS: Inside California’s colossal container-ship traffic jam: see story here. ‘Blue wave’ could spur stimulus on top of stimulus: see story here. Liners highly unlikely to slash service for Chinese New Year: see story here. Container shipping 2021: hangover or party on? See story here.