United States-bound import and shipment levels turned in another strong performance in June, according to recently-issued data by global trade intelligence firm Panjiva.
Total June U.S.-bound shipments—at 1,237,540—are up 31% annually and are up 27.4%, to 7,376,469, on a year-to-date basis through June. Containerized freight imports—at 2,834,616 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) increased 30.6%, and are up 31.5% year-to-date, to 17,013,197 TEU.
On the product side, for June, Panjiva reported the following import numbers [compared to June 2019]:
Panjiva said that the slowdown in IT and the reversal in consumer electronic likely reflect the ongoing shortage in semiconductor availability, which has impacted various electronics manufacturers.
For origin locations, Panjiva said that imports from Asia, excluding China, were up 34.4% compared to June 2019, and shipments from Europe were up 26.4% for the same period, with China up 15.4%. What’s more, the firm observed that imports from Europe, at 431,000 TEU, set a new record, and shipments from Asia trailed the level seen over the prior three months, which may indicate that “the relative pressure on ports may be felt more on the U.S. east coast than the west coast.”
Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers said in an interview that June’s numbers point to how the first half of 2020 has characterized by elevated consumer demand in North America, which has been largely driven by federal stimulus checks and, to a certain extent, the continuation of stay-at-home spending.
“At the same time, we are seeing the industrial economy and manufacturing recover, which has driven demand as well,” he noted. “There is that confluence of the consumer boom and an industrial boom at the same time. In the shipping sector, a lot of consumer durables, which have seen the most spending makes up the goods coming over in these boxes [containers]. A classic example being furniture, for example, which had been moribund for a long time, and then being shipped very rapidly kind of changes the dynamic. The same goes for things like televisions and home appliances.”
This activity, though, has led to a period where the container shipping sector has struggled to choke down that demand, which has been apparent in port congestion how aggressively container ships have had to be used, with the industry struggling to keep up.
On a positive note, the well-documented backlog at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach has come down, while it is heading up in Northern California-based ports.
And Rogers observed that some companies are taking steps to alleviate congested ports, like Levi Strauss recently noting it is doing more air shipping and importing more product into east coast ports.
Looking ahead to the second half of 2021, Rogers said that import levels could be contingent on how much spending is allocated towards the services economy.
“We have gotten almost all the way to Peak Season without there being a slowdown,” he said. “But we are still a little bit away from that and the industry has issues to work through. The Yantian [China] port has been re-opened for a couple of weeks, and it is going to take a while for those issues to work through the system. The latter part of this year may actually be more characterized more so by the supply side than the demand side. All eyes are on container lines now, given that President Biden’s recent Executive Order is encouraging some changes to be made.”