• ITVI.USA
    15,859.850
    -49.550
    -0.3%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.773
    -0.003
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.150
    -0.7%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,864.700
    -50.600
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,859.850
    -49.550
    -0.3%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.773
    -0.003
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.460
    -0.150
    -0.7%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,864.700
    -50.600
    -0.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.520
    0.380
    12.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.960
    -0.660
    -18.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.610
    0.250
    18.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.340
    -0.130
    -3.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.100
    -0.250
    -10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.860
    -0.220
    -5.4%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
American ShipperContainerMaritimeNewsSupply Chains

GSCW: Walmart beats Amazon in circumventing port congestion, analyst says

Ocean supply chain management gives Walmart an edge

In the battle between retail giants, Walmart (NYSE: WLM) is doing a much better job than Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) in avoiding U.S. port congestion and import delays, according to data compiled by Import Genius.

Walmart has been able to spread its ocean container imports to many ports across the country, including Houston; Norfolk, Virginia; and Savannah, Georgia, while Amazon shipments from Asia remain highly concentrated at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where COVID-related shortages of dockworkers have prevented terminals from clearing out containers and ships are stacking up in the harbor waiting for a berth.

“It looks to me like Walmart is handling both COVID and the congestion much more smoothly than Amazon is,” William George, an analyst at Import Genius, said Monday in a fireside chat hosted by American Shipper contributor Lori Ann LaRocco for FreightWaves Global Supply Chain Week. “And I think this has to do with just the depth of expertise that Walmart has in their supply chain. They have so many years worth of experience. It’s a very mature supply chain.”

Walmart also has about 150 import distribution centers, compared to about 100 for Amazon, which gives the Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer the ability to enter shipments in multiple locations. “All of those things let you diversify and shift when you find pressure in certain points. You can ease the load,” he said.

Walmart is affected by the supply chain disruption, too, but it doesn’t have as much cargo stuck offshore as Amazon does.

Amazon’s ocean import volumes handled by Beijing Century Joyo, Amazon’s in-house ocean consolidator, dropped 42% between August and January because so many backed-up orders from China are taking weeks longer than normal to clear U.S. ports. Just as striking, the number of twenty-foot-equivalent units imported by Amazon overall through LA/Long Beach fell 17% from November to January, which is typically a retail high point to stock stores for Christmas and other holidays, according to the Import Genius data.

One way Amazon is adjusting is sending more containers to the Port of Baltimore, where it has four nearby distribution centers. Amazon imports in Baltimore exploded last summer “and I expect to see something very similar to this over the course of 2021,” George said.

One reason for the massive import jam is that two-thirds of Easter-related shipments from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are going to the West Coast, with 80% of that amount in Southern California. 

George also described how Amazon uses its Chinese NVO, Beijing Century Joyo, to carry products for third-party sellers, further evidence that Amazon is now providing extensive logistics services beyond its four walls. Amazon’s own orders make up about 80% of the volume booked by Beijing Century Joyo, with the remaining bills of lading listing freight forwarders as the consignee.

“They are obscuring both sides. You can’t see the shipper or the buyer,” George said. “It’s likely those are third-party shipments.”

Walmart and Amazon are the two largest global retailers, respectively, by sales.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story mixed up Amazon import data with import data for Joyo, its non-ocean operating common carrier.)

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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Eric Kulisch, Air Cargo Editor

Eric is the Air Cargo Market Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at ekulisch@freightwaves.com

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