As of 2016, every single container that’s shipped to the US is documented in the Automated Manifest System, as mandated by the Importer Security Filing Law.
The law requires that before loading goods onto an ocean ship headed for the United States, the importer and carrier must electronically transmit data on each container to the United States Customs and Border Control. Each record is made public immediately and details information about a container being shipped to the US, including shipper and consignee info, as well as a description of the goods in the container.
Enigma makes Shipping Imports data available through our API. The data is useful for understanding how countries are dependent on one another for certain goods, and what businesses or industries might be vulnerable to things like country-wide sanctions, trade wars, or more recently, a global pandemic.
Given the economic effects of COVID-19, we decided to look at how the pandemic has affected U.S. shipping imports. Overall, imported container volumes are down 12% when we compare the first half of 2020 to the first half 2019. To put it concretely, countries had exported more than 10M shipping containers to the US by June 30th 2019; for the same time period this year that number is less than 9M.
We also looked at individual exporting countries. The US imports more than 4 times as many goods from Mainland China than from any other nation.. China is known to be the earliest country to be affected by COVID, and US shipping imports from China have decreased this year by 10%. However China has actually increased its share of exports to the US by 2% overall, as other countries have experienced large declines in their proportional share of imports.
If you look at Italy, the 5th largest exporter to the U.S., its share of exports to the U.S. is down 10%, and its shipping container volumes are down 20% this year. Given that all of Italy was shut down for weeks this spring, these numbers are drastic but likely realistic.
Interestingly, Hong Kong’s exports to the US were down by 27%, even though the region never experienced a full shutdown this spring. This decrease is in part due to the fact that Hong Kong’s exports were already declining in January due to a “tough trading environment”. This decline was then further exacerbated by COVID-19. You can see in the chart below that Hong Kong’s share of exports to the US are down by 18%.
It seems unlikely that imports to the US will rebound in 2020 given the global trade climate and a struggling US economy that may have lower appetite for exported goods in the near term.
As Enigma refreshes our data week to week, you can test out our API to track trends and understand the activities of specific businesses. If you come across additional interesting insights during your explorations — or have questions about how this data can be used effectively — we’d love to hear from you.