Shipping volume for the January-March quarter climbed 1.8% on the year to a record 3.65 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, the Japan Maritime Center reported. “We anticipate a 3-5% increase in the full-year total,” said an executive at an Asian maritime shipper.
In 2016, 15.61 million TEUs were shipped from the Asian region to the U.S., up 3.7% and hitting a record high for the third year in a row.
Growth is apparently driven by shipments of a trio of housing-related goods — furniture, construction equipment, and plastic products such as flooring material and window blinds. Housing starts in the U.S. rose in March for a fourth consecutive month.
Amid strong consumer appetite, shipments of televisions and other video-related equipment also increased 1.8%.
By region, China is on top of the list. Shipments from that country accounted for 64.7% of the Asian total in 2016. In recent years, however, Vietnam has been increasing its presence as rising wages in China prompt manufacturers to move production to Southeast Asian countries. Shipment volume from Vietnam has been growing more than 10% a year, with its market share rising to 5.9% in 2016, up from 0.4% in 2000.
By contrast, Japan’s profile is shrinking. Its share used to be higher than 10%, but now stands at 4.1%. Japanese shipments declined by 2.1% for the first three months of this year as automobile parts and vehicle equipment slowed down.
Increasing shipment volume from the Asian region shores up freight rates. Spot rates for a 40-foot container bound for the U.S. West Coast from Asia are currently set at around $1,350, nearly double the historic low posted a year ago.