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Textile Ports Survey

With imports seemingly always in the news, what is the textile traffic through US seaports, and which ports top the list?

By Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

T here is no doubt that the port infrastructure in the United States has swollen and struggled in recent years to accommodate the ever-growing influx of goods from throughout the world. The growth of textile imports is often cited, but what is the real picture of textile trade? Is trade uniform across all textile sectors? What US seaports are the big players in textile trade? And do they differ from sector to sector?

To many people, those questions seem elementary, and many have an educated guess as to the answers, but in Textile World ’s search for information, the hunt for a stable and reliable data source was a challenge.

Ingrid Torlay, senior market analyst of the South Carolina State Ports Authority (SCSPA), introduced TW to Leonard J. Corallo, executive vice president of Newark, N.J.-based PIERS-Port Import Export Reporting Service. Corallo agreed to collaborate with TW , and PIERS senior analyst Kim Knotts was on the case.

PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions, a division of Commonwealth Business Media Inc., analyzes more than 25,000 bills of lading every day, tracking goods as they move around the world. TW , with Knott’s assistance, was able to tap into that data, isolating and categorizing the many commodity codes that relate to textiles and that have been applied to each shipment made in 2006.

The aggregate numbers are significant. The study’s best estimate is that 2.54 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) — a standard quantity measure in international shipping — of total textile-related imports and exports moved through US seaports in 2006. These shipments had an estimated value of $182.3 billion.

Textile Categories
For this article, PIERS data were organized through the commodity code structure into six categories: apparel; fabric; home furnishings; fiber and yarn; textile machinery and parts; and floor covering. For full detail of the commodity code selection for the six categories, please see additional tables posted with this article on www. TextileWorld .com.

As one might guess, apparel traffic led the way, with 48.9 percent of the total textile port TEUs and representing 62.7 percent of the total estimated value of textile traffic (See Table 1). Fabric scored second, with 23.6 percent of textile TEUs and 20.2 percent of the value, followed by home furnishings, with 12.5 percent of textile TEUs and 8.8 percent of the value.

Fiber and yarn ranked fourth, making up 9.6 percent of the textile TEUs and 4 percent of the textile estimated value. Textile machinery and parts ranked fifth, with 3.1 percent of the volume in TEUs and 2.2 percent of the value; followed closely by floor covering, with 2.3 percent of the volume and 2 percent of the value.

Imports And Exports
The good news for the domestic textile industry is that fabric as well as fiber and yarn were net exports in terms of TEUs (See Table 2). Imports dominated the apparel, home furnishings and floor covering categories, while textile machinery and parts was also a net import category by more than two to one in both TEUs and dollars.

The apparel category led import textile traffic in 2006, with 60.7 percent of the imported textile TEUs — close to 1.18 million — and 71.4 percent, or $108.9 billion, of textile import value (See Table 2). By contrast, apparel came in third in textile export TEUs at 10.9 percent, and was valued at $5.47 billion, or 18.4 percent of textile export value.

The leading apparel import ports in 2006 were Los Angeles, New York and Long Beach (See Table 4). Regarding apparel exports, the data point to New York, Houston, Port Everglades, and Miami as representing more than 50 percent of traffic.

Fabric was the textile export leader in both TEUs and dollars, with 60.6 percent of textile export traffic and more than $19 billion or 64.2 percent of textile export value. Fabric ranked third in textile import traffic, with 12.1 percent of the TEUs and 11.6 percent or $17.76 billion of textile import value.

The Port of Savannah led in export TEUs with more than 59,000, worth more than $1.4 billion, while Los Angeles led in value at $3.78 billion of fabric export value (See Table 5). Charleston was also a strong player in fabric imports and exports, ranking fifth in export TEUs and second in export value. Charleston ranked fourth in both imported fabric TEUs and fabric export value. Los Angeles and Long Beach led the way in fabric imports, and were second and fourth, respectively, in export TEUs.

Home Furnishings
The home furnishings category ranked second in import textile traffic in 2006, with 16.2 percent of the imported textile TEUs and 10.4 percent, or $15.9 billion, in textile import value, respectively (See Table 2). Home furnishing export TEUs ranked last in the survey at 0.62 percent, worth $193 million.

The leading home furnishing import ports in 2006 were Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and Charleston (See Table 6). Home furnishings exports exited the United States primarily through New York, Jacksonville, Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Fiber And Yarn
Fiber and yarn, ranking fourth in total TEUs according to the survey, was a net textile exporter in TEUs with more than 132,000, worth $3 billion. However, the roughly 112,000 TEUs of imported fiber and yarn exceeded the export value by $1.3 billion, for a total of $4.3 billion.

The Port of Charleston led in import TEUs with more than 26,000, worth more than $929 million. Other leading import ports were Los Angeles, Savannah, Long Beach and New York (See Table 7). Charleston was a close second to Seattle in fiber and yarn export TEUs, but led in fiber and yarn export value, with 31.8 percent, or $967 million, of the total fiber and yarn export value of more than $3 billion dollars. Tacoma, Port Everglades, Portland, Miami, Norfolk and Savannah all played a significant role in fiber and yarn exports in 2007.

Textile Machinery And Parts
Ranking fifth in total import and export TEUs throughout 2006, textile machinery and parts worth more than $4 billion and totaling almost 79,000 TEUs moved through US seaports. Imports trumped exports two-to-one, with more than 54,000 TEUs worth some $2.7 billion of textile machinery and parts, compared with exports of just under 25,000 TEUs worth more than $1.3 billion.

The Port of Long Beach led the way in imports with 25.9 percent of import TEUs and 20.6 percent of import value (See Table 8). Oddly, Los Angeles, ranked fourth in import TEUs, carried the highest import value at 20.7 percent or $561 million.

Leading export ports Charleston, Norfolk and New York were followed closely by Savannah, Miami, Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Floor Covering
Floor covering, like apparel and home furnishings, registered strong imports in 2006 compared with exports. With more than 59,000 TEUs worth just shy of $3.6 billion, floor covering represented the smallest category in total textile import and export traffic though US ports in 2006. Compared with exports of more than 11,000 TEUs worth $573 million, the 48,000 TEUs of imported floor covering had a value in excess of $3 billion.

The Port of Charleston led in both import and export TEUs (See Table 9). Savannah was second in exports and ranked fifth in imports. Other leading import ports were New York, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Norfolk and Houston. Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Jacksonville ranked strongly in exports. Interestingly, Port Everglades ranked eleventh in export TEUs, with just shy of 180 TEUs shipped of highly valued freight worth more than $20 million — more than sixth-ranked Jacksonville which exported 628 TEUs worth $14.7 million.

Sectors Matter
The real picture of textile trade may be better than one might expect. Apparel imports dominate the core data and can obscure some of the significant sector trade taking place.

Is trade uniform across textile sectors? No, and the fact that the fabric and fiber and yarn categories are net exporters is heartening for US producers.

What US seaports are the big players in textile trade? You don't have to be an industry insider to know of the huge volume of imports moving through the ports of Los Angeles, New York and Long Beach, but there is some real insight in the data illustrating the importance of Charleston, Savannah, Houston, Port Everglades and Miami to both textile exports and imports (See Table 3).

And does the significance of the ports differ from sector to sector? Yes. As expected, the volume and value of apparel imported through Los Angeles, New York and Long Beach are very high. These three ports had imports of apparel in 2006 of greater than 658,000 TEUs, worth more than $64 billion. That represents 25.8 percent of the total textile TEUs all sectors, imports and exports combined and 35.2 percent of the total value. These ports, while significant in the other sectors particularly on the import side of home furnishings, fabric and textile machinery and parts don't dominate the export side with any consistency.

In the end, most analysts anticipate expansion and infrastructure development of the port system for years to come. As that development takes place and intermodal problems are solved, this snapshot may change, not just in terms of volume, but also in the growth of ports that have space to expand to support ever-increasing global trade.

Editor's Note: Port survey data were supplied by PIERS Global Intelligence Solutions. For additional information, go to www.piers.com or contact Leonard J. Corallo (973) 848-7065; lcorallo@piers.com.
March/April 2007

Related Files:
Download Textile Ports Survey Tables.