Inbound Shipping Remains Strong, Say Supply Chain Analysts

The impact of the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy filing cannot be overlooked, however

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United States-bound waterborne shipments in September tailed off from a very strong August but were still strong, according to data issued by Panjiva, an online search engine with detailed information on global suppliers and manufacturers.

September shipments––at 927,600––were up 1.3 percent annually and down 11.2 percent compared to August’s 1,042,942 which marked the first time shipments for a single month have eclipsed the 1 million mark since Panjiva first began collecting this data in July 2007, with July 2016 second at 978,489. What’s more, it added that this shipment tally equates to a calculation of 2.36 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalents) of cargo, which is also a record.

Panjiva noted that these numbers indicate how September is usually weaker than August, as well as there being a decline due to the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy in early September, too.

Among the factors driving September’s annual gains cited by Panjiva, included: iron and steel up 3.3 percent annually after 16 straight declines; home furnishings imports up 2.8 percent; and autos and parts imports up 1.4 percent.

While those commodities saw increases, more consumer-facing imports saw declines in the way of toy imports falling 0.8 percent annually, which was a strong improvement compared to the 9 percent annual decline in August, and apparel imports down for the fourth month in a row, down 6.7 percent, which Panjiva said confirms sluggish back-to-school sales.

On a regional basis, Panjiva said imports from the EU were strong with a 6.1 percent annual increase, even though they were down 24.6 percent compared to August, while South Korea imports dropped 6.1 percent and Taiwan off 5.6 percent. 

Panjiva Research Director Chris Rogers told Logistics Management—a sister publication—that when specifically looking at import numbers for things like apparel, especially winter clothing, and toys, which are both down, it suggests that retailers are not feeling “hugely confident” about the state of consumer spending. And he added that it is in direct contrast to recent data issued by the National Retail Federation, which is calling for holiday shipping season (the months of November and December) to be up 3.6 percent.

And while imports of home furnishings, which are also consumer-facing, were up in September, Rogers said that comes with a caveat.

“Buying decisions for toys and clothes are different than for home furnishings,” he said, “as home furnishings are longer-term decisions that have less to do with how a consumer is feeling right now and more based on a need. It is sort of like an industry good/consumer bad thing, or industry good/retailer nervous.”

The impact of the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy filing cannot be overlooked in so far as its subsequent impact on imports, too, according to Rogers.

He explained that most Hanjin-transported deliveries will have come in by the end of September, with very few vessels still stranded as was the case soon after it was initially announced.

“There is a possibility that things are still somewhat skewed with some shippers still having goods on stranded vessels, though, along with empty containers being stranded that could impact early October shipments, he said.

On a year-to-date basis through September, Panjiva said total shipments are up 0.81 percent at 8,292,418.

And for all of 2016, it expects total shipments are expected to be up 1.6 percent, which is below August’s 2.0 percent projection, with Panjiva pointing out that these numbers could see changes due to the fact that October imports are driven by the expectations of the holiday selling season.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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