Posts Tagged ‘import’

Data In Motion: 2012 Year in Blogging

December 31, 2012

We are counting down to the end of 2012. This has been an interesting year; we’ve looked back through our archives for some of the most popular PIERS blog posts of 2012:



What Happens to Old Shipping Containers (February 7, 2012)

PIERS recently featured a link on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to an article about Starbucks’ creative use of an old shipping container. The new concept store that opened just south of Seattle features a “Reclamation Drive-Thru” made out of repurposed shipping containers.

A (Razor) Sharp Idea for Gaining Competitive Intelligence (March 20, 2012)

One of the world’s largest consumer brands and maker of popular men’s razor blades recently came up with a very clever and interesting way to use PIERS data for competitive intelligence.  The company suspected that one of their major competitors was getting ready to release a new razor blade in the U.S., but didn’t know what the new razor looked like or when they were planning to release the product.

ILA Strike Watch (October 11, 2012)

Contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance have been extended through Dec. 29. The extension averted the threat of a strike at the original Sept. 30 expiration. The ILA-USMX coast wide master contract affects approximately 15,000 longshore workers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The master contract covers containerized and roll-on, roll-off cargo in 14 port areas.

How Will the Panama Canal Expansion Alter Global Trade for the U.S. East Coast Ports? (May 29, 2012)

The shortest path between two points is a straight line, it just so happens that this line is 50 miles long and the two points are the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Who Tops This Year’s JOC Top 100 Importer & Exporters (June 22, 2012)

2011 was extraordinary in terms of natural catastrophes and disasters – all of which cause a bit of global turbulence in the trade industry. The economic burden doesn’t only affect where the disaster occurred but also ripples through the world economy by affecting global trade volume. A single natural disaster can cause a domino effect that can cripple supply chains as was evident in the auto parts industry after the Japan earthquake last March. These crises “coupled with a soft post-recession consumer market and mixed macroeconomic environment, growth undoubtedly was restrained,” stated the Journal of Commerce in the “Coming Full Cycle”.

Foreign-Trade Zones: A Quiet Source of Economic Stimulus (June 19, 2012)

Foreign-Trade Zones allow producers in the United States to bring in foreign materials for processing into the United States at zero or reduced tariff duties. These zones, which include facilities such as the Virginia Port Authority and Nissan’s two manufacturing facilities in Tennessee, help offset customs advantages available to overseas producers who compete with domestic industry.

Acrylic Acid: From Diapers to Paint (October 2, 2012)

After an abnormal chemical reaction, a fire broke out at Nippon Shokubai Co.’s plant in Japan. An acrylic acid storage residue tank exploded around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, the fire later spread to another acrylic acid tank and a toluene tank. The plant produces about 20% of the world’s SAP and 10% of global output of acrylic acid.

We look forward to another year of blogging in 2013!


World Trade Center 1 to Recapture New York’s Skyline

December 13, 2012

The spire of One World Trade Center, the spindly antenna that will give the building its famed height, has arrived in Tribeca!

World Trade Center Spire

Images courtesy of the Port Authority of NY/NJ.

One World Trade Center inches closer to being the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, creating a culmination of excitement and sheer amazement. The voyage began on a barge from Canada on the Atlantic Salvor on November 16th; nine of the 18 sections of the 408-foot-high antenna structure, too heavy to be driven in, arrived at Tribeca’s Pier 25, Tuesday after crossing the New York Harbor from Port Newark in New Jersey.

Each of the giant sections, up to 24 feet long and 20 feet in diameter, were lifted by a crane onto a truck, made a slow journey to its final destination. Port Authority officials said a special route created with the Department of Transportation in an effort to cause the least impact to utilities, street furniture and traffic lights.

Workers lifted the first section of the spire to the top of One World Trade Center Wednesday morning. When completed, the spire will bring One WTC to a staggering 1,776 feet tall, making it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Decrease in China’s Toy Market Share

November 29, 2012

China may be considered the workshop of the world; with the combination of a large manufacturing base, relatively low labor costs and numerous support policies have made China an extremely attractive option for international business. With 1.3 billion people, cheap labor in China seemed unlimited at a time.

US Toy Imports Q3 2012

Despite its rapid growth in recent decades, many of the advantages that have fueled the expansion of Chinese manufacturing are beginning to deteriorate. Labor and raw material costs in China have seen a steady increase and many commodity-type goods can no longer be competitively sourced from China, such as toys. With Chinese wages rising at about 17% per year and the value of the Yuan continuing to increase, the gap between U.S. and Chinese wages is narrowing rapidly; increasing costs even before inventory and shipping costs are considered.

In a recent article in The Journal of Commerce, PIERS data showed China’s toy imports to the U.S. declined from an 82.4% market share in 2011, to 81.2% in 2012, while the next largest importer, Hong Kong experienced similar decline with its market share slipping to 6.5% from 6.9% a year earlier.

Meanwhile it seems China and Hong Kong’s decline in market share has been spread across a number of much smaller toy exporters.  The next largest source of toy imports after China and Hong Kong is Vietnam, which increased its market share position by .2% from 1.3% to 1.5%, which translates to 765 TEUs. Similarly, Germany increased their market share by .4% to 1.1% and showed the most significant increase in terms of import volume with an increase of 1,315 TEUs over the same period last year.

PIERS/JOC, Economist, Mario Moreno, offers a possible explanation for the recent shift in production, “Labor supply in labor-intensive industries is very tight, which has prompted many owners to move their (Chinese) factories inland, but even then they are still struggling to find enough workers for their export production activities. Many owners have relocated their shops to Vietnam in order to lessen their labor supply problems in China.”

Looking to keep track of a specific commodity? PIERS products give you a global picture of a commodity and the companies trading it. Analyze commodity growth trends, leading producers, source suppliers and more! Click here to register for a free demo.

U.S. Energy Self-Sufficiency

November 15, 2012

Do we dare call it…an energy renaissance? 

The global energy supply is rapidly and dramatically shifting; the fracturing of underground shale rock formations to extract oil and gas has led to a much needed economic boom across the U.S.  A combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has helped increase U.S. supplies, that will significantly reduce imports from traditional suppliers like Saudi Arabia, like the North Sea, West Africa. In a turnaround that would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, the United States is projected to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2020 while cutting its own energy use faster than any other nation, the International Energy Agency reports.

New fuel efficiency standard for cars and light-duty trucks along with increased use of renewable energy and biofuels, will slash the nation’s per-capita fossil-fuel usage between 2010 and 2035.  The U.S. relies on imports for 20% of its energy needs, but the report said increased production and higher vehicle-fuel standards will help make the country “all but self-sufficient” by 2035. It is also projected that a reduction in domestic oil demand will help decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 2035.

North America’s new role in the world energy markets will accelerate a change in the direction of international oil trade toward Asia. PIERS data can reveal the details behind every waterborne shipment of crude oil into the U.S. in addition to details on exports of oil derivatives like gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. Register for a free demo and a solutions expert will show you how PIERS trade intelligence can assist your business.

Quotes in Motion

October 16, 2012


“The sea is the same as it has been since before men ever went on it in boats. – Ernest Hemingway

Port Norfolk
(taken by a PIERS employee via Instagram)

ILA Strike Watch

October 11, 2012

Contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance have been extended through Dec. 29. The extension averted the threat of a strike at the original Sept. 30 expiration. The ILA-USMX coastwide master contract affects approximately 15,000 longshore workers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The master contract covers containerized and roll-on, roll-off cargo in 14 port areas.

The ILA has not had a coast-wide strike since 1977. However,  cargo interests were concerned about this year’s negotiations, the first under ILA President Harold Daggett. The 2002 lockout of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during the ILWU’s contract negotiations caused many shippers to diversify their supply chains to include East and Gulf coast routings. When ILA negotiations broke down during the summer, there were signs that some cargo might shift back to the West Coast. As the Sept. 30 expiration approached, some shippers implemented contingency plans by accelerating shipments or diverting some cargoes to the West Coast or Canadian ports.

We were interested in seeing how much cargo would be affected should the ILA strike happen. Using the PIERS database of U.S. import and export activity, we were able to track waterborne trade activity at each port in 2011. The numbers were staggering; ports such as New York and Savannah handle well over 1,000,000 TEUs each year…in both directions. The Top 10 ILA East and Gulf Coast ports totaled – 13,546,689 TEUs of imports and exports that passed through these seaports in 2011. That’s 1,100 New Panamax sized ships! Visit the for continued up-to-date coverage of the ILA-USMX negotiations.

If there’s a disruption to your supply chain, do you have the intelligence you need to act quickly? PIERS can help! Register for a free demo and a solutions expert will show you how PIERS trade intelligence can assist your business.

U.S. Importers Keeping Inventory Lean, Containerized Shipments Down 2% in April

June 11, 2012

U.S. containerized imports dropped 2% in April year-over-year, as retailers responded to a slowing economy by keeping inventories lean, reported Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce/PIERS. The decline followed a 7.3% Y-o-Y gain in March due, in part, to an early Lunar New Year in China.

“Latest import data reinforces the interpretation of a marked slowdown in the economy, induced by a lack of significant job growth. It is only fair to ask, what will the Fed do next?” Moreno said. His comments reflect his continued expectation that growth in imports will regain speed in the second half of the year, with the help of Federal Reserve intervention. Overall U.S. containerized imports were up 1% in the first four months of the year.

U.S. Containerized Imports April 2012


Leading the losses in April were footwear and miscellaneous fruits, each down 20%; menswear, down 19%; women’s and infant wear, down 11%; miscellaneous apparel, down 11%; auto tires, down 6%; and computer-related products, down 8%.  

Sales of existing homes are paddling along so far this year, which contributed to a slight uptick in furniture imports. In the months ahead, however, softness in the pace of home sales will constrain growth in furniture and home goods imports, Moreno said. Furniture is the single largest containerized import commodity.

Year-over-year U.S. containerized imports from Asia declined 1.6% in April, with shipments from China at the forefront, down 3%, due to reduced footwear, furniture and toy shipments. Chile followed with a surprising drop of 25%, while imports from Hong Kong and Belgium fell 11% and 17%, respectively. Leading the gains were Japan, up 17%, and Vietnam, up 14%.

More of Moreno’s trade and economic analysis can be found in his blog or by following him on Twitter @MarioMoreno_JoC

For FREE, instant access to details on U.S. import shipments, register online for PIERS TI Basic.

Early Lunar New Year Contributes to Drop in U.S. Containerized Imports, Volume Down 5.8% in February

April 3, 2012

U.S. containerized imports in February fell for the first time in four months on a year-over-year basis, sliding 5.8% to 1,193,157 TEUs as demand for furniture, toys and footwear declined on early closing of factories in China and soft consumer spending. The month-to-month drop was even more dramatic, as February imports plunged 18.6% from January.

U.S. Containerized Imports

While the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday, and related factory closings, made accurate Y-o-Y comparisons difficult, the 18.6% tumble from January suggests weakening volume, said Mario O. Moreno, economist for The Journal of Commerce / PIERS. Prior to the slide, furniture, the largest import commodity group, had been leading an import surge.

February imports from Asia tumbled 10% Y-o-Y, after a 3% increase in January. Moreno noted that his first quarter forecast of 1% growth in trade from Asia might be a bit optimistic.

“Overall demand for imported home goods remains relatively modest as the pace of home sales recovers at a stubbornly slow manner,” Moreno said. “Meanwhile, consumer spending rose faster than incomes in February, mainly at the expense of savings, which raises a concern for the sustainability of spending in the long run.”

To uncover the details behind these shipments including information specific to individual companies, commodities, or geographic regions visit and register for a free demo.

New Free Trade Agreements Cause Controversy

November 1, 2011

In mid-October, Congress passed three long-awaited free trade agreements—a bipartisan effort aimed at using foreign trade to drive America’s economic growth. With the addition of South Korea, Colombia and Panama in this deal, the United States now has free-trade agreements with 20 countries.

Source: New York Times

The New York Times reported the passage of the trade deals has important foreign policy and political ramifications. The U.S. has now solidified relationships with strategic allies and President Obama claimed a victory for pushing through the first trade agreements to pass Congress since Democrats broke a decade of Republican control in 2007. Proponents also predicted that these free trade zones will reduce prices for American consumers and increase foreign sales of American goods and services. These two snap shots from PIERS show South Korea in particular has a great deal of import/export activity.

However, these moves have angered trade unions, which fear job losses to foreign competition, and economists project the overall benefit to the sluggish economy to be marginal.

Further, as PIERS sister company The Journal of Commerce (JOC) reported yesterday, the signing of the free trade agreements has actually caused a 65 percent increase in the Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF), a fee created in the early 1990s to cover Customs and Border Protection’s costs  for import entries. Critics say the fee has never been used for this purpose but instead has helped offset the costs of Medicare in the past. In this case, the fees are being used to cover the costs of the free trade agreement’s passage, the renewal of two other government programs—the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

After blindsiding importers with this increase, the industry has no choice but to cope with the new fee. The National Retail Federation’s international trade counsel, Eric Autor, told JOC that importers could reduce their costs by consolidating shipments. But that’s not always possible—a significant number of import entries fall below the new maximum, $140,000 in value (previously $230,000).

What do you think of the new free trade agreements? Use the comment box below to sound off, or join us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to discuss your point of view.




Imbalance in Trade Prompts Clever Solution for Empty Containers

October 20, 2011

Massive U.S. trade deficits with countries like China are still as prevalent as ever, resulting in one of the biggest hidden costs to the shipping industry– back-hauling of empty containers.

Drewry Shipping Consultants estimates that there were over 82 million port to port moves of empty TEUs worldwide in 2010.  The Port of Los Angeles alone reported 831,370 empty TEU shipments during the first half of 2011, representing over 42% of their outbound container traffic.  This should come as little surprise given the massive rift in the trade balance between the U.S. and China.  According to PIERS data, U.S. imports from China reached nearly 4.1 million TEUs in the first half of 2011, while exports during the same period represented only 1.2 million TEUs, (of which the Port of Los Angeles handled approximately 27% of this export traffic).

US-Trade-Deficit-With-ChinaTop US Ports Trading with China

While the U.S. trade imbalance is most prevalent among countries in Asia, this problem is not exclusive to westerly trade lanes, nor is it always the case that a lack of U.S. exports adds to the deficit. Michael McDaid of Sea Star Line noted, “There are approximately four full loads moving to Puerto Rico for every full container returning to the U.S.”

Assuming a conservative average cost of approximately $200 per TEU for each empty container move in North America (terminal fees, storage depot fee and dray), the cost to carriers to move empties out of North America alone would have exceeded $1.6 billion in 2009, representing over 8.2 million incidences of port to port empty container moves according to Drewry.

This estimate of carrier cost for handling empty container moves does not include additional costs for land-side repositioning, where relevant, or the additional time ships spend docked at a terminal while empty containers are loaded and unloaded.

Another important metric related to empty container back-haul is the carbon footprint associated with moving empty containers. Each empty container move involves fuel and electrical consumption by ships, terminals, trucks, and railroads. While the true environmental impact of empty containers is difficult to measure, shippers issuing quarterly sustainability report cards are likely to be sensitive to these issues.

Various opportunities for minimizing the cost to carriers for empty container back-haul are currently either being explored or implemented to one degree or another, including: trans-loading, matching cargo to back-haul slots to reduce empty frequency, and active container-to-slot capacity management to avoid one-off ship moves dedicated to empty repositioning.

A more radical approach to reducing the energy, cost and effort to back haul containers to points of origin is the concept of folding containers.  One such design that was recently developed and is due to start CSC testing and certification later this year is New Jersey based startup Staxxon.  Over the last two years the firm has developed, prototyped, and patented technology that allows up to five empty ISO steel containers to be folded and “nested” so that the nested set can be moved in the same space as one standard dry 20’ or 40’ container.

While folding empty containers has been tried in the past and is also being developed by other companies, the approach used by Staxxon preserves the fundamental structural elements of the ISO steel container by folding from left-to-right (like an accordion) vs. the collapsing methods used by others.  This vertical design leaves each of the corner posts intact while folding to meet the current standards for racking, stacking, and related CSC test and certification requirements, which the company plans to start testing at Marine Container Equipment Certification Corp. in Farmingdale, New Jersey.

“If empty containers can be folded and nested at off-terminal storage depots, then moved in sets of 2, 3, 4, or 5 containers occupying the same space and dimensions as one container, container fleet owners and terminal operators could see as much as an 80% reduction in terminal ‘touches’ once the empty container nest is inside the terminal,” said George Kochanowski, CEO/Founder at Staxxon.  “Our target is for the incremental cost of container manufacturing, maintenance, and repair for Staxxon folding/nesting container technology to be recovered in as few as 12-18 nested container transits, depending on the terminal costs for the relevant trade lanes.”

Staxxon recently announced commercial production of 20’ standard dry containers based on its folding and nesting technology by New Jersey based Sea Box. The containers produced by Sea Box will be used to complete CSC certification at Marine Container Equipment Certification Corp. and commence non-commercial trials at marine and inland terminals as well as on container ships. The company closed a $1 million seed funding round in early 2011 and expects to announce a further round of funding in Q3 2011 that will enable commercial trials as well as development and production of 40’ standard and high cube prototypes that will use the Staxxon folding and nesting technology.

While the new folding/nesting concept from Staxxon sounds like it could be a win-win for carriers and terminal operators, the concept will likely live or die based on adoption and buy-in from all the parties involved.  Owners of container fleets will need to make a significant initial investment to realize future savings. While trucking and rail companies in the U.S. could be motivated by increased efficiency when evaluating the additional time to nest the folding containers, it is unclear how those receiving the nested containers overseas would respond to the additional burden of separating the nested containers.  Ultimately only time will tell, but whether it’s folding containers, trans-loading, or some other solution, as long as there are trade imbalances, carriers and terminal operators will continue to be challenged by empty containers.

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