But there was one shipment that really got me thinking: One that was particularly loaded with freight for the Philippines.
I’m not sure which country in Asia buys more clothes, and I wasn’t able to access any shipping data for the Philippines. But assuming that clothes are the ones that get shipped back home, I looked at the US’s top 10 destination countries for freight, taking into account actual shipping volumes to that destination country as well as the logistics of delivering freight to the country’s ports.
It turns out that the Philippines — where shipping data is readily available — is the 10th destination for US freight. The shipment from the United States is about six times more important than the shipment from Germany, which ranked second for the shipment.
If shipping companies stopped shipping from Germany, Germany would still rank second for US freight. And Germany would still rank first for freight heading to Taiwan, which topped the list for US freight.
The freight that was shipped from Germany was a lot smaller in volume than the freight that was shipped from the Philippines. But the shipment from the Philippines is especially valuable: It doesn’t matter what was being shipped, because freight shipping costs in the United States are so low, so all the freight was sent by the same company.
I ran my data set for all countries against the Freight Forwarding Index to see if this trend is common throughout the world. Of course, the United States had the biggest disparities. If you lived in Taiwan, Germany and Taiwan, Germany would be the largest exporter of freight. The Philippines was in a tie with Canada for fourth place in the rankings. In terms of freight value, Germany’s transportation freight is worth about $20 billion.
It’s tough to make any assumptions about the freight that a country sends back to its native country, because freight shipping is so dependent on transit times. Perhaps the US sends some of its freight by rail, since freight can travel by rail. But freight can also travel by ship, and since the US has been shipping very little overland since the end of the Vietnam War, the United States probably doesn’t send much freight by boat.
It may be surprising, but the Philippines has received very little freight for years. So when companies try to set up their shipping center in the Philippines, it will probably only be freight that will make its way back to the United States.
As much as freight has grown in the United States, the demand for freight that’s going in the opposite direction has grown even more. I wrote about this trend in February, but it still makes me wonder about the freight that’s going overseas, which is always cheaper than shipping it to the United States.