SONAR Indices & Insights: track U.S. port market share for ocean freight imports with Port Import Market Share (PIMS) to measure port activity

Adam RobinsonFreight Market Blog

As we’ve been doing every Monday, the SONAR team teaches you about another index found within SONAR, the freight forecasting platform from FreightWaves. This week, learn how freight market participants keep a pulse on U.S.-bound ocean freight imports with the Port Import Market Share (PIMS). In this article, you learn what the PIMS index is and how it tracks the market share of U.S. ports of all incoming ocean freight or maritime shipments, and what the PIMS index can do for each freight market participant.

What is the PIMS Index?

FreightWaves SONAR includes the Port Import Market Share of U.S. Customs Maritime Import Shipments (PIMS). This is the market share that each U.S. port is capturing of the total U.S. Customs Maritime Import Shipments on a monthly basis. The U.S. ports labeled in this ticker are the U.S. ports that were identified as the ports of entry on the bill of lading when the import shipments were cleared for entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There is only one port of entry for each shipment.

As seen below, the PIMS index,  shows the Port Import Market Share for the five largest U.S. Ports. The five largest ports in the United States are the: Port of Los Angeles; Port of New Jersey/New York; Port of Savannah; Port of Oakland; and Port of Long Beach.

ocean freight port import maritime shipments
In the chart above, you can see the PIMS for the top 5 largest U.S. Ports for incoming ocean freight shipments over the last year.

What does PIMS tell freight market participants about ocean freight?

PIMS tells you how many ocean freight or maritime shipments are being cleared through each port by U.S. Customs. In other words, of all ocean freight import shipments that are being cleared through U.S. ports each month, what percentage is moving through a specific port of entry. PIMS shows you the clear shifts in volume each month between all U.S. ports of entry. This can be important when trying to distinguish how U.S. importers are choosing to route their shipments and can be a lead indicator for which parts of the country are receiving more import shipment volumes. Consequently, you can determine which are likely to create more outbound truckload and intermodal volumes.

Pro Tip: Use PIMS with ICSTM (U.S. Customs Imports Shipments by Port) to see the exact number of shipments that each of the ports is managing, which brings a deeper level of visibility and granularity to each specific U.S. port.   

How can each freight market participant utilize PIMS for use cases?

  • Analysts: PIMS is an important metric to track U.S. import volumes into specific regions of the country. Anyone monitoring any facet of the domestic U.S. freight market will be interested in seeing which ports are handling the greatest volume of U.S. imports. Since a large portion of these shipments are moved into distribution centers in nearby markets, this metric has a direct impact on how many domestic U.S. truckload freight or less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments will originate from those nearby markets.  
  • Carriers: Carriers should monitor PIMS since it has a direct impact on the volumes of domestic truckload and LTL shipments that will originate from portside markets. When you see a port increase in market share, then you should assume that any truckload markets that contain that port are likely to increase in volume due to a surge in ocean freight shipments. This is also a major indicator of long-term trends in how shippers are routing their shipments into the U.S. 
  • Brokers: If you are routing shipments into the U.S. for a shipper, then it is important to understand how various U.S. ports are trending in terms of volume. If you see a port capturing more market share, then that could be a major indication that the port is likely to continue receiving more ocean freight volume in the long-term. If that occurs, you may want to reach out to your ocean freight carriers to see about options routing into that port, since they may be offering cheaper freight rates to help boost their services into that port. 
  • Shippers: Shippers can utilize PIMS to better understand how their shipper cohorts are choosing to route their shipments into the U.S., as well as monitor any major increases or decreases in volume to a specific port to better understand if there is likely to be more or less ocean freight congestion in that port as a result of how volumes are trending. If you see a port capturing more market share, then that could be a key indication that the port is likely to continue receiving more volume in the long-term. If that occurs, you may want to reach out to your freight forwarders and ocean freight carriers to see about options routing into that port, since they may be offering cheaper spot freight rates to help boost their services into that port.

Keep ahead of the ocean freight market and turn to SONAR to see U.S. port import market share with PIMS

In turbulent times, freight market participants need certainty to stay ahead of the freight market and understand the freight demand occurring in each participant’s most important lanes, markets and shipping modes. The premier freight forecasting engine, FreightWaves SONAR, allows participants to benchmark, analyze, monitor and forecast freight demand and costs. SONAR ensures more proactive responses to the market, provides correlations between several indices to guide decisions, and the ability to manage freight budgets or margins more proactively. Click the button below to get a demo of SONAR to see what the platform can do for you.