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FreightWaves releases SONAR Container Atlas to measure global maritime volumes

Visibility solution provides most accurate insight to import/export market

Henry Byers (right) breaks down TEU transit times within SONAR Container Atlas (photo Corey Smith)

FreightWaves is adding to its upstream view of the supply chain by expanding its maritime visibility solution in its newest addition, SONAR Container Atlas (SCA).

The maritime sector has become an increasingly important and unstable portion of the supply chain over the past three years. Geopolitical instability has resurfaced after a relatively long period of calm. 

Container freight is a major component of the U.S. economy. Many U.S. companies have “offshored” their production of goods over the past 30 years. Container import demand and activity are critical components to monitor for any supply chain manager. In addition, anyone involved in domestic transportation or who monitors the U.S. economy has a strong use case for forecasting these operating environments.  

SCA measures maritime container shipping activity using three primary components:

  • Ocean container spot rates, which cover most of the world’s highest volume lanes.
  • Maritime supply-and-demand analytics arising from electronic communications between shippers and carriers. 
  • Import manifest data, which covers shipments and twenty-foot equivalent units that have cleared their ports of entry into the U.S. 

Container spot rates

SCA’s container rates page defaults to four of the most important lanes to measure global shipping supply and demand but are focused largely on North American imports. Users will be able to select between hundreds of global port pairings for average spot rates for shipping forty-foot equivalent units. The data comes from Freightos and Drewry.  

Maritime supply and demand

SCA’s supply-and-demand page uses bookings data to measure TEUs, shipments, carrier rejections, capacity, carrier reported transit times, and lead times. All of these metrics are presented in chart form with customizable date ranges and country/port pairings.

Shippers will be able to identify where the most disruption at the ports of lading and destination are by seeing a combination of booking activity, vessel capacity and service changes. They will also be able to tell when demand-side fluctuations will potentially put pressure on rates before they occur.

The purpose of this SCA page is to provide an overview of the global container shipping sector for downstream participants such as carriers and brokers. There is a forecasting element involved in maritime data that domestic surface transportation providers can utilize to see how much freight is potentially heading their way with incredible precision.

Since the average container takes about 21-27 days (at the moment) to move from China to the North American West Coast, domestic transportation providers can see what is heading their way nearly a month ahead of time. 

Import manifest intelligence

SCA’s import manifest page displays both shipment and TEUs from a country all the way down to port pairing granularity for inbound U.S. container freight. The purpose of this page is to identify import freight demand patterns for freight that has already arrived in the U.S. Drayage, rail, warehouse and other surface transportation providers have an interest in seeing pattern shifts in container landings to help forecast their businesses. Shippers can use this to identify where delays around the ports may occur. 

SCA’s opening page displays a heat map based on volumes of the originating country in the upper left corner with the clearing port states represented just beneath it. Port TEU and shipments are listed by destination in descending order with the percentage of the total market share listed for the user-defined date range. The shipment and TEU trends are listed in combination chart form in the bottom right corner. 

SONAR Container Atlas provides a complete picture of container freight shipping patterns for freight bound for the U.S. 

Note that SCA is in beta testing and subject to continuous improvements.

Zach Strickland, FW Market Expert & Market Analyst

Zach Strickland, the “Sultan of SONAR,” curates the weekly market update. Zach is also one of FreightWaves’ Market Experts. With a degree in Finance, Strickland spent the early part of his career in banking before transitioning to transportation in various roles and segments, such as truckload and LTL. He has over 13 years of transportation experience, specializing in data, pricing, and analytics.