Access to market information is a critical component in the success of any business. This is the case in the agricultural export industry, where locating available marine shipping containers is often difficult. For many in this industry, finding available containers can be like searching for buried treasure. To make the search easier, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) developed the Ocean Shipping Container Availability Report (OSCAR).
Every week, the report provides a snapshot of shipping equipment that is available at 18 different intermodal locations. The report provides an aggregate count of equipment available from participating ocean container carriers. It also forecasts availability at each location two weeks out – timely information for companies that deal with the logistics of shipping grain, perishable foods, and other items.
The report is an example of USDA working with the private sector to support the U.S. agriculture industry. The AMS Transportation Services Division compiles information from 10 ocean carriers that are part of the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (WTSA). The WTSA is a research and discussion forum of major container shipping lines that carry cargo from the U.S. to Asia. As part of their participation in OSCAR, these container shipping lines voluntarily offer us data to help businesses operating in westbound transpacific trade lanes.
The majority of this country’s agricultural exports are waterborne and more than 20 percent of those exports by volume are moved in containers. Forecasts project U.S. agriculture will contribute $24.5 billion to the U.S. balance of trade in the 2012 fiscal year. In 2010 alone, slightly more than 80 percent of the country’s agricultural exports were waterborne.
We proudly put together the Ocean Shipping Container Availability Report because it offers additional market transparency for U.S. containerized exporters. By providing agricultural exporters more transparent information, the report will help companies put more of the pieces together when searching for containers to complete export deals.
The report is part of our continuing efforts to help the U.S. agriculture industry continue to experience these positive trends. In addition to this report, our Transportation Services Division offers the agricultural transportation and shipping industry services like the Grain Transportation Report and the Brazil Soybean Transportation Report.
As we continue to find new ways to support U.S. agriculture, we look forward to working with our partners in the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement and others with similar interests.