• ITVI.USA
    15,799.570
    42.680
    0.3%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.420
    0.220
    0.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,800.870
    41.790
    0.3%
  • TLT.USA
    2.830
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.640
    0.250
    7.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.680
    -0.160
    -5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.450
    -0.060
    -4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.300
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.020
    0.040
    2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.030
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    132.000
    7.000
    5.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,799.570
    42.680
    0.3%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.420
    0.220
    0.9%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,800.870
    41.790
    0.3%
  • TLT.USA
    2.830
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.640
    0.250
    7.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.680
    -0.160
    -5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.450
    -0.060
    -4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.300
    0.010
    0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.020
    0.040
    2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.030
    0.130
    3.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    132.000
    7.000
    5.6%
American ShipperContainerMaritimeNewsShipping

Data reveals unprecedented nature of US import surge

Data from FreightWaves’ SONAR platform reveals huge gains

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.

import rates data

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.

import rates data

Customs filings

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.

import rates data

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.

import rates data

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.

Greg Miller, Senior Editor

Greg Miller covers maritime for FreightWaves and American Shipper. After graduating Cornell University, he fled upstate New York's harsh winters for the island of St. Thomas, where he rose to editor-in-chief of the Virgin Islands Business Journal. In the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn, he moved to New York City, where he served as senior editor of Cruise Industry News. He then spent 15 years at the shipping magazine Fairplay in various senior roles, including managing editor. He currently resides in Manhattan with his wife and two Shih Tzus.

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