As many folks in the global trade world will tell you, now’s a great time to revisit ocean freight rates (or even bid out your 3PL entirely). The latest US retail port volume numbers are discouraging to say the least. Perhaps the only silver lining in the decline of shipping volume -- besides the cost savings opportunities in bidding out freight -- is that US Customs will have more time to devote to safety initiatives such as stopping radioactive stainless steel from making it into the country. How much more time will they have on their hands than a year ago? According to above-linked Traffic World article, January 2009 traffic volume is estimated to be down "15.8 percent from January 2008."
And the outlook is no better. Economist Paul Bingham is quoted in the article as projecting that "Import container traffic is projected to be weak through June because of the underlying reduced demand during the global recession." All in all, not a good sign. But then again, perhaps giving US Customs more time to focus on security will be a good thing for everyone. As a final aside, from a sourcing perspective, check out some of the latest savings numbers and trends that Ariba reports over on Supply Watch. According to Ariba, "sourcing projects for ocean freight are currently averaging savings of three to eight percent. The ocean freight industry is now facing market conditions that have not been encountered in almost six years." So if you’re sitting on the ocean freight sourcing fence, what are you waiting for?