C.H. Robinson innovates as COVID-19 PPE needs surge once more — Panjiva

Supply Chain Research

C.H. Robinson innovates as COVID-19 PPE needs surge once more

Coronavirus 511 Corp - Forwarders 341 Health Care 353 Mode - Containerized 1472 Mode - Seaborne 1803 U.S. 5322

The U.S. International Trade Commission is required to publish monthly statistics outlining U.S. imports of products critical to tackling COVID-19. While the U.S. economy has been steadily reopening and medical protectionism is subsiding, as discussed in Panjiva’s Q3 Outlook, there is still the risk of a significant relapse in some states. 

Panjiva’s analysis shows the ITC-defined imports which cover protection, diagnostics and treatment, increased by 21.6% sequentially in May to reach $14.1 billion. That compares to just $8.22 billion in February and is equivalent to a 68.6% year over year surge. 

The fastest rate of growth has been in the protective equipment group which climbed 54.3% sequentially and by 192.2% compared to a year earlier, led by a 86.9% jump in shipments of PPE specifically, Panjiva’s data shows. Imports of diagnostic tests and equipment only increased by 1.9% sequentially but at least have increased by 23.6% compared to a year earlier.

Somewhat concerningly, imports of oxygen therapy equipment fell by 6.6% sequentially and by 15.9% year over year. There is some hope on the latter though given shipments of ventilators climbed 22.7% higher sequentially in June, Panjiva’s shipping data for seaborne imports shows.


Chart segments change in U.S. imports of medical supplies defined by the U.S. ITC as being needed for COVID-19 treatment. Source: Panjiva

The surge in PPE shipments has been due in large part to improved supply chain operations in the logistics industry. That was initially helped by FEMA’s “Project Airbridge”. More recently though freight forwarders including C.H. Robinson have provided strategies for handling such short notice / peak demands, Global Trade reports. C.H. Robinson has noted in particular that the use of expedited less-than-container load services may cut transit times by as much as 14 days from China and reduced costs to 20% that of air freight.

C.H. Robinson’s expedited offering may be starting to bear fruit. Total U.S. seaborne imports of containerized PPE increased by 37.3% sequentially in June while those linked to C.H. Robinson increased by 43.0%. C.H. Robinson had also outperformed modestly in May after lagging in April and Q1. By comparison imports handled by Expeditors rose by 34.2% in June but had already increased by 35.0% in May while K+N’s only improved by 7.1% in June after a 37.4% increase in May.


Chart segments change in U.S. seaborne imports of medical PPE by freight forwarder. Source: Panjiva

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