Zepol's Blog of U.S. Imports and Exports

U.S. Import Volume from China Skyrockets in August

US import volume China stats image 2015
Although China’s economy has slowed, its exports to the United States have steadily increased in volume. U.S. imports from China reached the highest volume in one month ever in August. TEUs (twenty-foot containers) from China increased 13 percent compared to August of 2014 and totaled nearly 918,000 TEUs. This accounted for 49 percent of all U.S. imports in the month of August.

With the reports of exports declining from China by total value, Zepol expected to find a similar drop in volume for August, but that was not the case. China’s decision to devalue its currency last month has perhaps had an immediate impact on its volume of exports, especially to the United States. But will the surge in monthly imports last?

Compared to 2014, the annual volume of imports from China is still up 5 percent YTD (Jan-Sept 2, 2015). This is 1 percent less than the total growth from 2013 to 2014, which had a 6 percent climb in TEUs, but identical to the 5 percent increase from 2012 to 2013.

Though Chinese exports to the United States are up, some U.S. ports have actually seen a decline in imports from China; including the second-largest port in the nation, Long Beach, which has imported 5 percent less from China YTD vs. 2014 YTD.

So where is the increase in Chinese exports headed? The South and East Coasts, believe it or not! The port of Savannah has increased imports from China this year by 33 percent and the port New York/Newark has increased in Chinese imports from by 16 percent.

What's a Consignee?

The modern definition of consignee is the company or person on a shipping label or bill of lading that receives a shipment. The consignee is often the entity that is in charge of ordering and purchasing the good and many times is interchangeable with the buyer. See an example of a consignee on the shipment document below.

Consignee on a bill of lading image

Where does the term consignee come from?

The word consignee is Latin in origin from the 1700’s and originally meant to sign, mark with an ‘x,’ or with a seal.

Nowadays, consignee is mainly used in the transportation and international trade industries, where it apparently never went out of style. Importing companies who purchase goods from a foreign company mark themselves as the consignee of the goods they order. Click Here to view a list of U.S. importing consignees in Portland, Oregon.

To define consignee in a simpler way, think of ordering a blender online. The blender is sent to you in a package through a mail service with an address label. When you receive the package, you see that the label is addressed to you, you ‘sign’ for it, and pay for it. This makes you the consignee.

How do you pronounce consignee?

Phonetically consignee is pronounced: kon-sahy-nee, with accent on the ‘ee.’

What’s the difference between consignee and consignor?

Consignee can refer to a person or party that receives/orders a shipment, but consignor refers to a specific person that received it. i.e. Ralph Thomas, was the consignor, but Target was listed on the shipment as the consignee.

Why is the consignee listed as a transportation company?

A consignee can also be a third party company that is in charge of receiving a shipment on behalf of another company. These are called third party logistics companies (3PLs). 3PLs are hired to manage transportation services by many organizations and are often written as the consignee, which deems them responsible for the shipment.

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Will Explosions at the Port of Tianjin Affect U.S. Trade?

Several intense chemical explosions shook the port city of Tianjin, China on the evening of August 12th, according to Reuters, which has killed 50 people and injured 700. The blasts ripped apart port buildings and shipping containers, including the surrounding warehouses and apartments. With dangerous toxic chemical waste among the wreckage it may mean a long cleanup process. This has many wondering how the flow of goods from the region will be affected by the disaster.

Tianjin is the 10th-largest port in the world and is responsible for a significant amount of U.S. imports. On an average day, nearly 500 containers travel from Tianjin to the U.S. This year about 97,000 containers arrived from Tianjin, which is up 10 percent from 2014 YTD.

Ports and companies that could be affected.

The leading U.S. ports receiving the shipments from Tianjin are Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combined account for over 45 percent of the goods. If port infrastructure has been damaged at Tianjin, it could mean a little lull in volume from Asia to the LA/LB ports. This isn’t great news for Long Beach, which is already experiencing a 7 percent decline in import market share from China, compared to January-July of last year.

As for businesses impacted, Zepol’s data also shows that over 6,000 companies have imported from Tianjin already this year. Major U.S. importers from the area include: Pacific Cycle, Lg Sourcing, Itochu Building Products, Yingli Green Energy Americas, and Ta Chen International, all of which have imported over 1,000 containers from Tianjin this year. Time will tell if this explosion has impacted their trade lanes but for now, the impact is most present on the hundreds of victims of the horrific ordeal.

Are Imports Moving to the East Coast?

Imports Shift East Graphic Map

The answer, yes. Zepol found that a hefty chunk of businesses have switched from using Pacific to Atlantic and Gulf ports this year. Total imports along the East Coast have increased by 15 percent, while import traffic on the West Coast is down 4 percent.

It’s crazy to think that freight going all the way from Asia to Eastern and Gulf ports is the best option for some importers, but China is actually the main instigator behind the supply chain shift. Imports from China along the West Coast declined by 3 percent, but Chinese imports on the East Coast continue to skyrocket. Atlantic ports increased containers from China by 20 percent this year, and Gulf ports by a more dramatic 43 percent.

“Shipments are setting sail for Eastern ports even before the Panama Canal expansion is complete,” explains Zepol’s CEO, and trade data expert, Paul Rasmussen. “Shippers may be fed up with West Coast backups, and with carriers adding more lines from Asia to the East Coast, it’s hard to blame them.”

The ports of Newark/New York, Savannah, and Houston had the highest increase in imports for the first half of 2015 (compared with the same time in 2014). The Port of Newark/New York increased in imports by 12 percent, Savannah rose by 32 percent, and Houston by another 26 percent. The port of Houston also had a huge surge in containers from China. The port brought in 53 percent more Chinese containers already this year.

Below is table of the top 10 ports' import volume in 2015 compared with 2014 (Jan-June)

US Port TEUs
(Jan-June 2015)
(Jan-June 2014)
% Change
Los Angeles, CA 1,944,277 2,054,137 -5%
Long Beach, CA 1,640,322 1,699,209 -3%
Newark/ New York 1,578,021 1,409,863 12%
Savannah, GA 816,585 616,948 32%
Norfolk, VA 512,914 460,186 11%
Houston, TX 452,998 359,904 26%
Charleston, SC 411,848 360,886 14%
Tacoma, WA 404,478 393,006 3%
Oakland, CA 383,456 400,140 -4%
Seattle, WA 252,838 238,576 6%
All Others 1,407,117 1,327,942 6%
TOTAL 9,804,857 9,320,797 5%

Data Note: The data in this report does not include empty containers, or shipments labeled as ‘freight remaining on board,’ and may contain other data anomalies.

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Big Changes in Oil Imports 2015 | Infographic

Oil Imports Decline Infographic 2015 Statistics

It’s no surprise that the United States has reduced its volume of oil imports over the last few years. The initiation of new fracking technology has enabled the industry to produce a surplus of local reserves. But what is a shocker is how drastic the further decline of petroleum imports has been already in 2015.

Compared with 2014 (January through April), U.S. oil imports have declined by 45 percent this year; the total value of imports shrunk from $117 billion in 2014 to just $64 billion in 2015. Total barrels imported of crude oil also dropped by over 55 million in 2015, or 6 percent less than 2014.

Another big change for petroleum imports is where it's coming from. The market share has shifted for the top five countries exporting oil to the United States. Mainly, a 7 percent larger chunk is coming from Canada and now less of the pie is from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Mexico.

Though, America is purchasing fewer amounts oil from nearly every country. Year-to-date, the United States has imported 33 percent less oil from Canada, 65 percent less from Saudi Arabia, 48 percent less from Venezuela (by total value), and the list goes on.

The top two leading petroleum imports, by HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) code, have also seen an incredible decline. The number one HTS code 2709.00.1000 (petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals testing under 25 degrees API) has decreased imports this year by 41 percent and the number two HTS code 2709.00.2090 (petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals testing over 25 degrees API) declined an even higher 56 percent.

Overall, U.S. oil imports in 2015 have already seen some big changes. Check out the infographic above to see more data on oil imports in 2015 from Zepol. Stay tuned for U.S oil export data.

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