What’s in the box?

We have all seen the container boxes on trucks or on rail cars, on container ships as we drive over the bridges around the Bay Area, or even by freeways near the rather huge, and very busy Port of Oakland.

APL Post-Panamax container ships, Location: San Francisco, California - Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), USA

Ever wonder what is inside all these containers?

Well, of course, just about anything you can think of  —- from toys, shoes and clothing, giant flat-screen televisions, printers and computer equipment, auto parts, to wood and paper products —- most headed to our big box stores.

Can you guess the top 3 commodities by weight (not by value), coming into America’s container ports?

The answer is

  1. Furniture (and parts of furniture)
  2. Bananas or plantains, fresh or dried
  3. Worked monument stone, art

Remember, the question is by weight, so….. furniture is heavy, and that makes sense as #1…and so are monuments and stone products at #3 —- think items made from granite or those pretty stone statues and water fountains we buy for our gardens.

But….bananas are #2…really?  I had no idea Americans were such big banana eaters!

#2 in top 10 commodities by weight, inside containers coming into USA

Below is the Top 10 chart

Top Commodity (by weight – in thousands of metric tonnes) of US Container Imports

Commodity Description

Year 2008

Year 2009

Jan to June 2010

Percent Change 2008-2009

Furniture and parts

5,035

4,082

2,383

-18.9

Bananas and plantains, fresh or dried

2,842

2,876

1,566

1.2

Worked monument, stone, art, granule

3,918

2,557

1,439

-34.7

Parts and accessories for motor vehicles

3,009

2,289

1,470

-23.9

Coal, briquettes, and ovoids from coal

2,791

2,199

731

-21.2

Beer made from malt

2,364

2,024

1,023

-14.4

Oil, not crude, from petroleum and bitum mineral

1,474

1,769

1,199

20.1

New pneumatic tires or rubber

2,121

1,745

987

-17.7

Seats (except barber, dental, etc.) and parts

2,110

1,732

1,165

-17.9

Glazed ceramic flags and paving and hearth tiles

1,944

1,466

777

-24.6

All other commodities

109,585

89,580

49,618

-18.3

Top 10 commodities

27,606

22,739

12,740

-17.6

Top 10, percentage of all commodities

20.1%

20.2%

20.4%

TOTAL all commodities

137,191

112,319

62,358

-18.1

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, based on data from U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade Division, USA Trade Online, available at http://data.usatradeonline.gov (report dated January 2011)

My notes:

  • There was a decrease for all commodities in the period covered by the report, with the exception of…BANANAS and oil
  • And another surprise…lots of beer “made from malt” coming in, right after coals, briquettes, but before oil “not crude, from petroleum“.

Yes, we have bananas for sale!

Here is a link to the full (52 page) report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics titled America’s Container Ports: Linking Markets at Home and Abroad (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf)

Interesting information on this detailed report:

  • Trends in container shipping are directly related to patterns in overall international trade, which is a primary contributing factor in the Nation’s economic
    growth.
  • Despite recent economic uncertainties and fluctuations in annual merchandise trade, the United States remains the world’s largest trading Nation, with the world’s biggest economy.
  • Today, 1 container in every 11 that carries global trade is bound for or originates in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of worldwide container traffic.

3 thoughts on “What’s in the box?

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Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.