Archive | June, 2012

Catalog of Interesting and Valuable Trade Information Related Blogs

Over the last several months, since the May 1st launch of, we’ve done our best to uncover and share pertinent news, views and Who’s Who in the world of trade intelligence each and every day.  As part of that mission, we’ve put together a list of other blog sites that are worth taking a look at and possibly bookmarking:

China Sourcing Blog:  They have an extensive blog roll that is worth checking out, very well done and been publishing since 2007.

Export Law Blog: ExportLawBlog is written and maintained by Clif Burns, Illya Antonenko and Megan Gajewski. It began in August 2007.

International Trade Law Blog: International Trade Law News is edited by international trade attorney Douglas N. Jacobson, Esq. and began in 2003.

MSU: Global Edge Blog: Michigan State University has a great international trade website and resource you must check out, which includes a well done blog which has been alive since late 2008.

RSS Feeds: A recent brainchild by the owners of, is a site to watch.  They recently launched in November of 2010.

TI Provider: Datamyne Blog: One of the top-tier TI providers, Lisa W. takes great pride in her social media brain child. They have published well and regularly since February, 2010.

TI Provider: Import Genius Blog: Another TI provider’s blog, “Making Waves” seems to get lost in the backwash of too much advertising and their last blog is months old.

TI Provider: Panjiva Blog: Clearly the best blog site of all TI Providers; it’s slick, it’s well laid out, well written, regularly updated, incorporates other social media and even includes cute little graphics.  They’ve perfected the medium since they first started publishing in August of 2007.  Grand Prize winner. Voted Best Trade Information Blogger! 

TI Provider: PIERS Blog: The 500 pound gorilla of TI Providers is the last in social media. They stumbled in rather slip shoddily but have been improving rapidly since their launch a month or so ago.

TI Provider: Zepol Blog: Not inspiring but consistent. The blog site seems a bit confused at the present, but these are confusing times. They’ve published a couple of times a week since late 2008.

U.S. Census: Global Reach Blog: A well done blog site by the Census Bureau that often includes charts and videos. They’ve been publishing about twice a week since January 2010.

U.S. Department of Commerce Blog: Very corporate looking and professionally done, this site is a “must bookmark” for anyone who wants to stay up on international trade issues. They began publishing January, 2009.

U.S. Blog: Started last year in January, this blog is rather uninspiring but nevertheless a good source for news from other sources about export related issues which is a rather important issue.

U.S. ITA Tradeology Blog: Launched in April 2009, Tradeology is the International Trade Administrations official social media outreach. They also twitter around a bit as well.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Artificial Intelligence Engine Connects the Dots

CenTradeX was known to be on the cutting edge of developing innovative trade applications. Over a decade we focused our resources in 3 general areas: Access, Integration and Delivery.  Access is in terms of providing user-friendly interfaces with common sense terminology and easy to understand processes.  Integration is connecting the dots, i.e. associating many types and kinds of data together.  Delivery is from the stand point of developing “Disney type” graphic displays and reporting mechanisms that help bring data to life and highlight business understanding and application.

The most challenging task, one that our team labored on for a decade and into which we invested the lion’s share of our development budget was integration.  It was rather easy to layer global, U.S. and state statistical data… although it had not been done by any company prior.

Next came connecting company information – gathered from many sources including Kompass, Hoovers, D&B, PIERS, etc. The difficulty came (and comes) from the fact that statistical information is organized under one universally accepted schema (the harmonized tariff system) while company information is arranged under a completely unrelated system (SIC, NAICS, or a special proprietary one in the case of D&B and Kompass).  To reveal the traders (importers and exporters) underneath the numbers, one has to connect those dots.  Not an easy task…

Finally, statistical information and company information are only updated on a monthly, quarterly or even annual basis. Although much can be learned from combining these disparate data sets /systems, the real value is connecting daily, transactional data with these. That’s where the U.S. Customs Waterborne Import manifest data comes in.  Although it only tracks U.S. imports and only those arriving by sea, it still represents a trillion dollars of international trade.  The U.S. market is known to be the easiest market to access by foreign exporters.  And we are a country of consumers.  And most importantly, contrary to most other trading nations, through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) many details of the individual transactions by foreign suppliers and U.S. importers is transparent and public.

There are other ancillary data sets that offer valuable perspectives that are worth noting and integrating such as shipping costs, tariffs, foreign exchange rates, supplier ratings, etc. The point here though is that integration leads to value and competitive advantage.

Because UBM Global Trade /PIERS had already invested decades and millions of dollars into their “data engine”, the powerful CenTradeX A.I. Engine was excluded from the acquisition in 2010.  As a result, we retained THE most valuable of our assets:  our A.I. Engine and Data repositories upon which all our innovative web applications were built and into which we invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 10-year span.

I believe, although several T.I. Providers have done some very neat and noteworthy things with data over the last couple years, that our A.I. engine – now dormant since May 2010 – is still the most advanced system by which to parse and normalize the daily waterborne data. It uses complex internal scripts while referencing a huge company database of millions of international trading companies and connects this transactional data to company, statistical and ancillary data.

We therefore offer this resource to consider for sale, license or joint venture.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Database Repositories for License or Sale

Licensing /Sale of CenTradeX Data Repositories

Data is THE fundamental building block used in constructing Trade Intelligence.

When I founded CenTradeX in the Spring of 2000, I endeavored to offer a missing value added component to readily available, inexpensive but obtuse trade statistics and reports. My initial premise was that there was tremendous inherent value locked away in publicly available trade data that had been hitherto ignored or undervalued.

It was incredulous to me that NO one had ever layered global statistics with U.S. statistics.  It seemed like a no brainer.  First of all, I began the task of combining many sources of data together to provide a more complete picture, 3-D versus flat, such as U.S trade flows with global statistics with state exports. Thereafter, we integrated several sources of company data with statistics.

Marrying huge sets of data organized under very different, asynchronous code systems is not a simple task. I and my team kept adding layer upon layer (of statistical, referential and company data) in order to develop this 3-D versus flat perspective of international trade. CenTradeX became the first to merge, integrate, marry, and correlate disparate data systems together.

Our accumulated data repositories contain decades of statistical, company, and product information as well as the daily import waterborne manifests from U.S. customs and five years of transactional import & export data from China.

The following represent our retained data repositories available for license /sale:

Database repositories

  • World Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) garnered from (up to) 192 countries, years 1996 through 2008. All commodities organized by HS code – by 2, 4 & 6 digit detail – as well as summary tables.
  • U.S. Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) also organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6, & 10 digit detail along with summary tables; years 1989 to 2009.
  • State Export Statistics: Annual trade flow data organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6 digit detail along with summary tables; years 2000 to 2008.
  • U.S. company information: A rather extensive database, accumulated and refined over a decade, that details U.S. companies engaged in some aspect of world trade; exporters and importers as well as ‘service’ related entities.
  • Global trading companies: Gathered from many sources over 10 years highlighting importers & exporters as well as ‘service’ related entities.
  • China company /statistic database: A huge, transactional database of Chinese trading companies – along with virtually EVERY import and export transaction (including the values of each shipment) from years 2000 through 2006. Translated and normalized into English.
  • U.S. Customs waterborne manifest data: A mammoth, highly refined database collection detailing virtually every U.S. import (waterborne) shipment– on a DAILY basis – from January 1, 2006 though May 31, 2010 including millions of transactions per year with extensive detail on products, shippers (sellers), importers (buyers) and shipping data.
  • Reference tables: Normalization and referential tables that serve to LINK the various databases referenced above as well as provide easy access to and /or understanding of obtuse data such as harmonized code language, trade nomenclature or obscure data fields.

World Trade Daily Commercial Services: Complimentary Licensing of Piers Prospects and StatsPlus

In 2010, PIERS acquired several of our (CenTradeX) Trade Intelligence Applications that now represent half of their product line, namely Prospects (and a Prospects derivative they now market as Trade Finance),  StatsPlus, and “Dashboards”.

As partial consideration, I retained the rights to 13 licenses of this software for five years: 13 licenses to StatsPlus, 13 licenses to Prospects and 13 licenses to Dashboards (which they have yet to bring to market). Said rights expire July 1, 2015.  Under the terms of that agreement, 12 licenses are eligible for redistribution. Redistribution being “employees, independent contractors and consultants, clients of the licensee, for whom, from time to time, the licensee or his appointees are carrying out consulting or other commercial engagements”. Currently I have assigned 2 which will expire June 30, 2012. See the article, WTD Backstory- Part 5: Retained CenTradeX Core Technologies & Licenses.

Prospects & Trade Finance Geo Locator Home Screen

Prospects is unique in the world of Trade Intelligence. It combines many data sources into one easy to use graphic interface. U.S. Customs Waterborne Import data is matched with D&B Company information as well as various statistical sources. In addition, PIERS adds their proprietary export data (at this point they are the ONLY game in town able to offer data on daily exports) as well as some supplemental referential databases. One of the coolest things about Prospects is that all this data, from individual shipment detail to highly aggregated summary, is searchable by-product, company, or region.

Also see WTD article: PIERS Prospects™ – Prospecting For International Buyers and Sellers.  Also refer to PIERS website and informational materials:  PIERS Prospects Information.    Prospects Product Brochure.

StatsPlus integrates U.S. import and export statistics, state export data, and global trade flow information together with global buyers and sellers underlying the statistics. PIERS StatsPlus, retains the slick visuals, colorful graphics and dynamic charting capabilities that were always inherent in all the CenTradeX interfaces.  See WTD article: PIERS StatsPlus™ Attempts to Transform Trade Statistics Into Intelligence.  Also refer to PIERS website: PIERS Stats Plus Information.

Complimentary Licensing of Piers Prospects and StatsPlus.

My vision is to see develop into a vital interactive community of trade professionals representing every aspect of World Trade and Development.  To help seed this vision, I am offering complimentary subscriptions to StatsPlus or Prospects- arguably the most innovative TI software available.

There are several ways to qualify for this complimentary subscription.

1. As an educator, trainer or consultant or as an international trade professional:

Educators and trade professionals will be considered for a complimentary license; provided that as a material and integral part of agreement, they agree to regularly submit for publication articles that reflect their views and experiences in International Trade, utilize the software and be available for occasional surveys and research studies.

Stats Plus Global Market Report

We are limiting the number of available licenses within each particular facet and function involved in International trade (academia, government, NGOs, logistics, maritime, commercial, consulting, etc.).  A minimum commitment of 1 article per month for each subscription is required (2 per month if both StatsPlus and Prospects are utilized).

As a sponsor or client:

Ongoing sponsors of articles and clients (with consulting, development or project management contracts) provided that they cannot be a current PIERS client (or listed prospect) or previous CenTradeX customer.  In addition, you must sign the standard PIERS end-user agreement (EUA), abiding by its normal terms and conditions. You cannot resell or assign this license to anyone else.

This complimentary subscription is only valid for 1 year.  After that, you may contact Aliet Martinez, head of commercial sales at UBM Global Trade / PIERS, – for a discount on the subscription rate to Prospects and Stats Plus.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 4

Ahead of the pack, both of newcomers and established top-tier Trade Intelligence providers (excluding PIERS), when it comes to the value added aspects of enhancing U.S. Customs data is Panjiva.  Other TI providers may be faster, have other country transactional databases, been around longer, have cool features with broader appeal and application, but the company that has done the most with the underlying raw data (again, with the exception of PIERS) is most definitely Panjiva.  Let me explain.

First, some really smart people (Harvard & MIT trained folk) founded Panjiva.  Really not a big deal in and of itself, I know some really smart people who work with the other TI providers as well.  They just don’t have the same credentials.  As the Wizard of OZ aptly reminded the Scarecrow:  

Secondly though, they had money. A venture capital firm backed Panjiva with sufficient resources to enable them to design & build something of significance. (Funny, there was no Wizard of Oz bequest of that commodity.)

Third, their User Interface was built to serve one primary purpose for one particular target market.  Help U.S. Importers source products and components overseas.  Period.  End of Story.  Simple ideas usually work best.

Most importantly, they truly have gone to great lengths to “connect the dots” integrating other pertinent databases (over two dozens various sources) to the U.S. Customs data toward the end of enabling their product to perform its singular objective more efficiently.

Their strength is also their corresponding weakness.  The singular design and function of their product makes it perform less adequately than tools created by other TI providers.  The best hammer for hammering ain’t going to work great as a saw or an axe.  Try to chop down a tree with a hammer, even a really good hammer… and you are likely to get frustrated.

I will refrain, in conclusion, from bringing PIERS and PIERS products into the equation for contrast and comparison.  Since half (3 of 6) of all their current products were developed by myself and my team, it becomes a rather narcissistic and self-aggrandizing exercise.  Furthermore, there are plenty of other articles on this blog that highlight the relative strengths and features of their home-grown and evolved products as well as those acquired from my company, CenTradeX.

I have learned through this recent investigation that there is no such thing as “The Best TI Tool”.  It all depends upon what you’re trying to do with the tool, your budget, your time, and what features you value most.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards – Part 3

As far as the “top tier” TI Providers are concerned, I was impressed on many levels.   Ryan P. of Import Genius spoke with the zeal and fire of a true believer.  I resonated very much with him – his passion and vision.  I really “dig” his visual mapping tool that lets you dynamically interact with the international supply chain – foreign suppliers and their corresponding U.S. importers.  I also like the pragmatic approach they avow having come from being importers themselves. However, no degree of enthusiasm, cool tools and professional background can make up for the lack of rigorous normalization and data enhancements that are required in this marketplace to differentiate you as a Trade Intelligence Provider.   I believe if they had an ample infusion of capital, they would account for that shortcoming post-haste as well as zip past many of their competitors.

Zepol (Paul R.) as I have reported, has a kick ass search engine that can wheedle your desired data out of 100,000,000 million manifest records and deliver it to you with lightning speed.  It is truly amazing.  Their User Interface is elegant and well-engineered.  I love and appreciate the simple, straightforward logic inherent within its design and function.  Kudos to them for expanding beyond simply offering U.S. Customs data and weighing in on the statistical side by offering Census data (tracking U.S. imports and exports on a monthly basis). Sound business folks to be sure.  They’ve been around a good while now, coming on the scene over 6 years ago and being the first competitor to PIERS.  However, akin to Import Genius, speed, a well-engineered U.I. and sound business thinking ultimately won’t be enough to stand-up against the onslaught of bottom fishing competitors that are rampantly propagating across the planet.  It’ll take more.

Datamyne, with roots in Latin America, along with their handfuls of other transactional databases certainly has a competitive advantage in that regard.  Their new U.I. is definitively the most robust – analytically speaking.  Their management and customer service is purported to be superior. Lisa W. continues to make data/technological advancements moving in the right direction to connecting the dots (U.S. Customs data with other databases).  Referential Company Data obtained from reputable venders such as D&B /Hoovers is essential to normalize /standardize the many iterations found within the U.S. Importer & Foreign Supplier Name /Address fields.  Attribution of product codes is also an essential value added. Datamyne has begun applying both essential processes and, in those regards, is way ahead of most of their competitors, but at this point still has a considerable distance to travel to perfect and maximize the underlying U.S. Customs data.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 2

To start with I was surprised to find so many new companies out there that are offering products based upon U.S. Customs data.  It seems of late that I hear about a new venture almost monthly. Another surprise is that among those that I refer to as “Second Tier” TI providers (and even have dismissively at times called “bottom feeders”) there are notable, commendable qualities beyond price. Although I didn’t go through the same in-depth investigation and product demos as I did with the five top-tier providers, I was usually able to glean enough information from their website to get a snapshot and form a cursory opinion.

For instance, several not only offer various utilities by which to search, retrieve and manipulate U.S. Customs data, but also provide Customs (transactional) data from other countries and regions.  Consequently, a competitive position taken by both PIERS & Datamyne of offering transactional data for other markets (primarily Latin American) is diluted by the addition of a handful of others (second tier) who do likewise.

Screenshots, when provided, from some of the TIP’s (Trade Intelligence Providers) U.I.s (user interfaces) looked interesting.  Although I would need an extensive firsthand demonstration to form a concrete perspective, there seemed to be a number of products with robust search utilities, including graphic displays and trending capabilities.

Most astonishing though was /is the price.  $99 per month is typical and even on the high side.  As I have reported, one China based company sells entry-level subscriptions at $30 per year (8 cents per day).  With another India based organization –  a “pay-per-record” model – you can download 100 complete records for $1.60.   And, as I have said, new companies are cropping up monthly.

Honestly, it made me grateful that I’m not competing as a TI Provider in the field anymore.  It was always a challenge to enlighten prospects about the value of data in the first place.  Most people either don’t get it or undervalue it.  It was frustrating.  International Trade involves trillions of dollars yet some billion-dollar international companies don’t spend squat on data (or people who understand how to use it intelligently).

So now with new companies offering U.S. Custom data for almost nothing, the challenges for TI Providers get that much more difficult.  The obvious answer is to develop value added solutions that empower users to make better business decisions, easier, and faster as well as document tangible, quantitative, profitable results.

Soon gone are the days (IF they are not gone already) wherein TI Providers will be able to survive in this competitive marketplace without bringing something very significant and distinctive to the table beyond an off-the-shelf search and reporting utility atop minimally standardized bare-naked U.S. Customs data.  The market will demand more… and/or pay less.

Survey of Trade Intelligence Providers: Review, Recap & Regards- Part 1

For six sequential weeks, notwithstanding last week’s respite to introduce two new contributing authors and some fresh topics, we have focused upon Trade Intelligence Providers – both “top tier” and secondary players, taking an in-depth look at their products / interfaces along with their respective strengths and weaknesses.*

And to qualify, the type and kind of TI providers I chose to highlight and contrast were those who offered U.S. Customs data: Waterborne Transport, U.S. Import, Shipping Manifest (Bill of Lading) records collected and disseminated daily.  Why single out that ONE specific database as the qualifier for “Trade Intelligence” providers?

After all, there are many types and kinds of trade data – transactional, statistical, company and referential.   Trade Intelligence is about using information, connecting dots and making informed business decisions within the international trade arena.  It isn’t about one kind of data.

The reasons I focused upon those companies and applications that utilize this type of data are manifold:

  • Customs data is inherently the most powerful data source.
  • Customs data is the most obtuse, complex type of data.
  • Customs data is still the most underutilized resource.
  • Customs data offers abundant opportunities for innovation.

Another personal aspect of my preoccupation comes from the sizeable investment – in time, money, energy and resources – that I have made to understand, innovate and commercialize U.S. Customs Data.   And, as regular readers of this blog will recount, I maintain considerable unique technological assets that I consider to be superior and extremely valuable for which I desire to attract future sales and/or license fees for the utilization of such as well as potential consulting /development contracts (within the context of the “non-compete” clauses of my PIERS acquisition agreement).  So, those are my gratuitous commercial objectives.

Bottom-line, there are a plethora of data types and sources that are important.  The Holy Grail of Trade Intelligence is about “connecting the dots” to uncover not only the trends but also the trend makers… seeing the “big picture” and being able to drill down to the pixels if required… breaking down the supply chain to understandable and consumable pieces… applying knowledge to empower and enable more intelligent business decisions.

Conducting this recent in-depth investigation has challenged several preconceived notions that I maintained about the Trade Intelligence players and their products.  There have been many noteworthy developments in the field over the last several years.  That being said, there remain HUGE opportunities within the TI field and an ongoing need for vision and innovation.

*This post is republished.

2nd Tier TI Providers, Part 4: China Based Goodwill (CTI), Trade Info 365 & IE Intelligence

Goodwill China Business Information Limited (aka CTI /CSS) offers Transactional, Statistical and Credit Reporting for and about China and Chinese importers and exporters. They are also an authorized PIERS reseller within the Greater China Region.  I suspect they, in turn, are the third party provider for PIER’s China Trade Intelligence.

CTI (China Customs Import & Export Trade Data Base) is considered the most exhaustive source of information on Chinese trade.  The company running CTI (Goodwill) has been appointed ‘world-wide agent and distributor for issuance and distribution of China Trade Information as collected and edited by the Statistics Department of Chinese Customs’.

Trade Info 365, one of the best China TI Providers

One of the best second tier providers I have run across because the founder contacted me directly and asked for coverage is China based TradeInfo365.  As we noted in our previously published article, TI Provider TradeInfo 365 Provides Transactional Trade Data for 10 Countries, they not only provide what seems to be a fairly sophisticated online search and reporting utility atop U.S. Customs Data, but they also offer similar transactional detail on trade from the UK, China, Korea, Russia and several Central or South American countries.

Several TI providers including Datamyne and PIERS as well as several foreign suppliers offer transactional data for the same Latin American countries, leading me to believe that these databases are relatively easy and inexpensive to apprehend.

China based World Integrated Import Export Intelligence Solutions (IE Intelligence) touts North American and China Import –  Export transactional databases as their primary product/solution.  All available U.S. Customs data fields are listed as accessible.  However, they also list over 20 other countries wherein they offer data as well.

Their pricing plans are cheap.  A limited 1-year subscription to U.S. Customs data is only $30.  IE’s “premium” subscription plan that provides for monthly CD distribution with DBS export and unlimited users sells for $149 annually!  Annual China Import OR Export data subscriptions start at $599.  IE indicates that they’ve been in business for 5 years and have over 500 customers.

Race to the Bottom Winner, IE Intelligence, with subscriptions priced @ 8 cents per day

The current leader in the “race to the bottom” regarding the commoditization, commercialization and distribution of U.S. Customs data, at this juncture, can certainly be awarded to IE.  At 8 cents (USD) per day, U.S. based Trade Intelligence providers will have to bring a tremendous amount of “value added” to the Customs data in order to compete.

There are more TI Providers out there and there are more TI Providers coming.  I’ve heard about two new ones from China alone in the last month. The newest ( is rumored to be an Import Genius look alike. At the present the URL meta tag indicates “Actionable Competitive Intelligence” but the website fails to resolve.

Perhaps in the near future, I’ll have to create a new category, Third Tier Trade Intelligence Providers, to accommodate all the newcomers. I’m not sure how much more room there is at the bottom though.

I once entertained the notion of providing U.S. Customs data free of charge as a method of garnering website traffic and “up-selling” value added Trade Reports and Services.  At this juncture though, data has become commoditized to the point of losing most of its perceived if not intrinsic value.

IE Intelligence Simple Search Screen

IE Intelligence Reports Screen

2nd Tier TI Providers, Part 3: India Based InfoDrive, Cybex, IBIS, Tips & Others

Next up on second tier Trade Intelligence Providers is InfoDrive India, the apparent Godfather of India based providers.  Their website declares, “Find actual Buyers and Suppliers from 12 Countries Export Import Data From Customs.”

InfoDrive India, the Godfather of India based TI Providers

Info Drive India boasts of a database containing almost 200,000,000 records.  Through an affiliate,, they also offer an online, Searchable Encyclopedia of India Foreign Trade Rules, Regulations and Policies.  Their website is translatable into 9 languages (besides English).  Notwithstanding most of their listed clients seem to be based in India. Per their website, they apprehend their data from:

  • Global Export Import Trade Data from Customs of US, UK, India and China
  • Bill of Lading Invoices, Bills of Entry, Invoices, Shipping Bills, EDI Systems
  • Shipping Manifests and Ports

As the name implies, they specialize in India import/export data.  Their database is updated on a monthly basis.  India data post 2005 does not reveal company names. Records are searchable by Harmonized code at an 8 digit level.  Cost per Record is only 16 cents, thus to download 100 shipment records, the cost would be US $ 1.60.

They also offer transactional data from the UK, India, China and Russia as well as U.S. Customs (waterborne import) Data – available either online or CD – as well as a handful of Latin American Countries.   Particulars of access and pricing are not directly revealed.  For example, in order to order U.S. Customs data, prospects are required to fill and submit a form.

Cybex ExIm Solutions: Similar to their cousin, InfoDrive India, Cybex specializes in transactional, statistical and regulatory trade information for the greater India region. They offer some India port and air data too.  In addition, Cybex also offers Customs type import data for the U.S. & UK as well as transactional import and export data for China and Russia. China import sample reportIndia export sample reports arranged by industry/product.  They list 5 record based subscription plans ranging from $10 to $300 for 400 to 20,000 records (India Data base).

IBIS. International Business Information Services.  India Transactional Import and Export data.  They publish 24 reports per year on each of four industries: Steel, Metals, Chemicals & Polymers and Plastics & Rubber. Each report lists the trading volumes, values and approximate CIF/FOB prices, detailed consignment by consignee, source/destination details and product description. The same data is presented country-wise also, separately for imports and exports.

TIPS.  Indian import and export customs data.  India’s version of the U.S. Customs data except that records post 2004 mask company names.

Uruguay based Urunet report screen

Neighboring TI provider, STATISTIKA VED – is a Russian service providing transactional data on import and export from Russia, Ukraine, China, Kazakhstan, Belorussia and Moldova. Records available only in Russian.

Uruguay based Urunet offers trade statistics, transactional (manifest data) and custom reports/consultancy for Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela as well as China and Spain.  Their website is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.  Click to see Samples of their interface and reports.  YouTube video demo (Spanish)

2nd Tier TI Providers, Part 2: U.S. Based Trade Intelligency, Manifest Journals & Import Intel

On the home front, several new T.I. competitors have recently emerged from rather inauspicious roots, such as  L.A. based Trade Intelligency, founded by Tor-Leif Walker.   Last year about this time, did a company mention on him & it.

Tor: Stone mason or TI mason?

Trade Intelligency offers a $99 plan into the world of (U.S. Customs data based) Trade Intelligence, which is available via your Android smart phone. Now that sounds like a smart way to serve up trade intelligence.  They do offer more expensive plans based upon how far back you want to peek into their database.  30 days?  1 year?  5 years or more?  If you’d like to try it out, there’s even a free search utility.

They’ve got an official page on Facebook.  Or  you can Follow him on twitter. You’d become his 8th follower, if you did.  If you join-in LinkedIN however, you’d be only one of his hundreds of connections.  How he has gone from stone cutter and supplier (the vocation he references as his current employ) to Trade Intelligence Provider would be an interesting story indeed.

Michael Heffernan of Manifest Journals

DC based Manifest Journals provides somewhat technical but insightful information about U.S. Customs data.  Although their website is bland and graphic-less, it does address key problems as well as outline important value added features they provide.  Noteworthy are:

How We Fix the Four Big Problems in the Raw Data from US Customs:

If you have successfully and happily made it through the above explanations, then stagger forward (heavy doses of caffeine may be helpful at this juncture) to these two interesting (for us data geeks) descriptions:

Nowhere is price mentioned.  In fact it is difficult to find much information about them at all. Michael Heffernan (Seattle) US Customs Data Expert and Divyesh Shah (India), Director of Technology were “added” to the company last year.  I did dig up their blog /Facebook presence and twitter account.

North Carolina based Import Intel serves up the same U.S. Customs Waterborne Import Manifest (BOL) Data but marketed from a slightly different angle.  They offer “custom” world wide or specified country EXPORT reports.  Really it’s just looking at the shipper side of the U.S. import transaction.  Of course they also regurgitate the typical list of other applications: locate industry suppliers, monitor market demands and track specific competitors.  Pricing is not revealed, but they offer a free trial and demo of services rendered. They mention an affiliate office in China.

Manifest Journals searching and reporting utility for U.S. Customs data

2nd Tier TI Providers, Part 1: Top Secret & Ultra Top Secret Sources for Customs Data

During the last several weeks, we’ve reported in-depth on the five top-tier Trade Intelligence Providers and purveyors of U.S. Customs (transactional) data, all of which are headquartered in the United States (possible exceptions are PIERS and Datamyne whose parent companies are headquartered in England and Uruguay respectively).

U.S. Customs, now under DHS

This week, we will outline second tier providers of U.S Customs data (or sellers of similar transactional data on one or more countries).  As you will notice, many of these venders are located in India or China.  The list of sources is mushrooming as prices are correspondingly plummeting.

One China based company is offering access and reporting on U.S. Customs Waterborne Import Manifest (BOL) data for 8 cents a day – $30 for an annual subscription.  Another, India based company’s cost per downloaded record is only 16 cents, thus to download 100 shipment records, the cost would be US $ 1.60.   Many offer subscription plans starting at $99 or less.

But let’s begin at the beginning. Many readers have requested information on how to source the raw data directly from Customs.  So, here it is.

List of the 40 Countries “Anonymous”; the unsearchable, unfindable TI Provider maintains transactional data for

U.S. Customs Data is now officially under the auspices of DHS – Department of Homeland Security.  They don’t make it easy to find them. Although they are required by federal mandate to release specified fields contained within the shipping manifests under the freedom of information act, they are not required by law to make the process easy.

There are two departments you have to deal with: one that handles and dispenses the data and the other that bills and collects the money. At last record the data center folks are headed by James Klosko, fax: 703-650-3144.  CBP form 3 (05/03) is required.  The $$ folks were headed by Deborah Wolfley fax: 317.298.1258.  Written request must be submitted – Customs form 368 – for collection of $$.

The cost is $100 per day or $36,500.25 (average) per year.  Buyers can now retrieve the data via FTP feed versus over night delivery, as it had been for many years.  You can even buy the raw data a year or two in arrears if you want to.  Sorry, no discounts are available.

On the theme of secrecy, I recently stumbled upon a mysterious unnamed data source while reviewing a survey about Trade Information providers conducted by the EU.  The report is available for download via our WTD Google Docs site.  Also check out WTD articles “Extraordinary (Top Secret) Report on TI Providers Published by the EU” Part 1 and Part 2.  This entity is conveniently referred to as “Anonymous”.

ANONYMOUS is a WEB application to access a cargo data-warehouse on import/export container records from about 40 countries. Sources can be queried from a single interface point. The data are translated and searchable in English.  Over 90% of the data is regulatory: the balance is derived from port authorities, carriers or other commercial data collectors.  However, this paid service is NOT ADVERTISED ON THE WEB.

They have the most comprehensive data collection on the planet.  “Anonymous” is the ONLY entity to have apprehended transactional data for Middle-Eastern Countries. I’d say they are the best-kept secret in the trade intelligence world.  Who are they?!

PIERS, Part 4: Directories & Databases & Research Reports, Oh My!

In the previous several articles, we outlined several of PIERS’ competitive advantages, then looked at their three evolved and related products: Piers TI, IPiers and MyPiers (which share a common UI and database) and subsequently summarized their newly acquired Trade Intelligence applications: Stats Plus, Prospects and Trade Finance.

In addition to these interactive platforms PIERS also offers other International trade related products.

International Trade Databases.  PIERS maintains transactional level databases (similar to U.S. Customs data) on 17 countries (all but two are Latin American).  Notwithstanding, these databases come complete with HS Codes, shipper names and commodity (product) details and encompass waterborne, land and air transport.

We reviewed the Mexican database. Despite being in Spanish, it was a treasure store of information.  Specific 6 digit harmonized codes were assigned to each shipment as well as the value, information and method of transport (which included air, truck and rail) for both imports and exports.  Therefore, with a little work and linking it to other databases, you could put together a pretty good profile of U.S. – Mexico cross border trade.

PIERS Importer – Exporter Directories

PIERS Online Directories of U.S. Importers & U.S. Exporters.  Basically, it’s a summary version of recent (last 12 months) trade activity by importers and exporters.  Previously available via hard copy publication or on CD, it is now accessible online (either separately or combined).  It includes over 150,000 importer and 50,000 exporter company listings.  These directories summarize top 3 to 5 U.S. ports of entry, countries of origin, SIC codes, number and value of shipments, and product descriptions for each trader.

PIERS Maritime Research. PIERS also publishes, in association with its sister company the JOC (Journal of Commerce), specific reports on Shipping, Carriers, Ports, and Trade Flows.

The scope of our survey necessarily excludes review of sister UBM Global Trade Companies and their products.  However, it may be said that in the area of integration – connecting the dots of disparate international databases – there is still significant ground to cover and opportunities to exploit.  Wiki reference.

Whereas PIERS has suffered in times past in the area of strategic forward thinking management, the acquisition of Commonwealth Business Media (including PIERS) by UBM in 2006 (UBM Global Trade formed in 2008) and installation of key executives John Day (CEO), Peter Spinelli (CFO) and Gavin Carter (CIO) have dramatically changed the mix.

Complete overall of their legacy IT systems along with acquisition and launch of innovative CenTradeX TI applications (as well as core technology staff) have also aided in PIERS’ competitive advancement.

Ironically, the one aspect they had shown greatest need for improvement is in marketing. However, recently they have joined the ranks of other market savvy TI providers in making intelligent use of social media. They have a compelling story to tell , the resources to tell it well and the management to sell it.

With both homegrown and acquired TI applications, PIER’S Arsenal of Products is impressive

In that spirit, below find a downloadable list of product brochures and data samples, courtesy of the excellent sales team at PIERS headed by Wael Jarous.  For more information, please feel free to contact sales manager Aliet Martinez at

**By the way the featured image appearing in this post is from a mural hanging in UBM headquarters, created by Meagan Spendlove.

PIERS, Part 3: Acquired Apps – Stats Plus, Prospects & Trade Finance

The next family of PIERS products I will expound upon were acquired not evolved.

Whereas Piers TI, IPiers, and MyPiers (along with individualized customization and forthcoming dashboards) utilize a common platform and database with varying features, add-ons, and options. Stats Plus, Prospects and Trade Finance are an entirely different ilk.

All referenced trade intelligence applications were acquired last year from CenTradeX, the company I developed and directed for 10 years.  For those interested, the background, start-up, development, acquisition of CenTradeX Applications by PIERS as well as retained assets that were excluded from the sale have been documented in earlier WTD articles.  Furthermore, I’ve already outlined the development and attributes of Stats Plus and Prospects in previous posts too.

Prospects & Trade Finance Geo Locator Home Screen

PIERS Trade Profiles and its sister application, Trade Finance were previous PIERS applications designed for sales prospecting (international trade leads) by the maritime/commercial and financial industries respectively.  These products were phased out and replaced by the (CenTradeX) Prospects platform.  The only difference between the two applications is that Trade Finance offers several additional search fields and sums up data quarterly (bankers like it sliced that way).

Several TI Providers have recently started to offer silos of other data (besides U.S. Customs data), such as Census or U.N. trade statistics. The primary and revolutionary difference with Stats Plus, Prospects, and Trade Finance (again which is really just Prospects) is that they were developed and evolved as INTEGRATED data platforms.

Statistical information (State, U.S., World), Company information (from D&B aka Harris Info and Hoovers, Kompass, Zoom, Yahoo, etc.), PLUS daily U.S. Customs (transactional) manifest records are all interconnected.  They are not contained and accessed from individual, unrelated silos.  They are served up as a unified whole.  Thus there is greater dimension and depth to the data.

Also, integrating third-party information sources with the U.S. Customs data tremendously aids in the normalization and standardization processes.  In fact, it is really impossible to do otherwise.  For instance, D&B profiles can be employed to normalize the many possible iterations of a consignee name.  Statistics can set the context by which to evaluate potential foreign suppliers.

These novel PIERS platforms integrate disparate data sources in ways that empower users to get more complete, accurate pictures of international trade as well as the underlying global traders involved.

The alternative is to depend upon singular (and incomplete) snapshots taken from transactional (Customs) data, maybe piece them together with other fragments of information gathered here and there from other sources, try to patchwork it all into some incomplete profile by which to then make an (important?) business decision in order to better (successfully?) navigate within the choppy and highly competitive waters of global trade.

Prospects Summary Tab

Prospects Carrier Trend Report

PIERS, Part 2: Home Grown & Evolved TI Applications – I, My & TI

In contrast to many TI providers that offer a “one size fits all” user interface, PIERS offers many products for varying business applications that incorporate U.S. Customs data.  In this article, I will focus on three (of seven) related products: Piers TI, IPiers & MyPiers- all of which use the same platform but are differentiated by a handful of features and corresponding price.

Back in the day, PIERS largely distributed the (somewhat) normalized Customs data via stacks of monthly CDs sent to their several thousand clients.  They were a hassle to use and easily pirated with a clumsy Excel like interface.  IPIERS became their first online solution.  It is the medium priced option of the three.

With IPiers, you get access to fully normalized U.S. Customs data – both import and export – for the last three years.  If required, you can fetch data as far back as 1979.  They can set you up to only see certain product lines (based upon Harmonized Code) or the whole tamale.  You can pay for unlimited access or just pay per record downloaded.

The UI is efficiently designed and comfortably maneuverable. There are standard reports or you can design and save your own.  You can schedule your reports to run and be distributed at will.  Export options include Excel, DBF, PDF and DOC.  Overall, it is a fetching TI interface.

Piers TI was the second online offering and a level below IPiers.  Piers TI provides access (through the same UI) to RAW (not standardized) U.S. Customs data. Even though the consignee and shipper names haven’t been standardized as in IPiers, users still get the benefit of commodity code attribution along with estimated shipment value and TEU count.

Piers TI is available in export only, import only or import & export versions and provides for searching and reporting on the last five years of data.  Reporting functions allow for roll-up of results, graphic displays and download of 10,000 records at a time.

When comparing products (and pricing) with other competing TI providers’ offerings, Piers TI (import only) is really the best apples-to-apples UI to evaluate.

MyPiers is a fully customized version of IPiers, designed around the products, preferences, and applications of an individual client.  PIERS programmers construct individualized data groupings and reports around specific customer requirements such as designated sales territories, certain commodities and supply chain movements.  Obviously, this option is best suited for higher end commercial and maritime clients.

Soon to be released “Dashboards”, a further add-on (up-sell) to MyPiers, will offer advanced graphic-oriented, executive-level interactivity while maintaining drill down capability into the granular level detail as well.

Ultimately, individualized consultation, design, and application development utilizing U.S. Customs data is the most expensive and powerful aspect of trade intelligence: People IQ.  The singular element of Trade Intelligence that is not easy to commoditize.

Up next, a look at PIERS newest family of products.

Stats Plus Global Market Report

Stats Plus Report of U.S. Buyers

PIERS, Part 1: The Fleet Battleship in an Ocean of TI Providers

This week’s series focuses on the 500 pound gorilla and alpha dog of Trade Intelligence Providers, PIERS, a division of UBM Global Trade (along with 7 other related companies) which in turn is one of 17 “business verticals” owned by London-based, publicly traded United Business Media.  Download annual report. For purposes of comparison and contrast, we will only be looking at PIERS and their handful of TI products.

PIERS company history goes back 175 years rooted in the Journal of Commerce  which provides news about global trade specifically related to waterborne freight movements.  JOC is one of the oldest publications in the United States, founded by Samuel Morse in 1827.  So, in some fashion or form, PIERS and sister companies have had almost two centuries evaluating and reporting on international freight movements.

Why is this important?  Well, it is definitely one of PIERS’ competitive strengths.  Tenured knowledge and experience with obtuse and complex data over time accrues to one a significant advantage that cursory acquaintance can’t replicate.  It’s safe to say no one knows the data better.

The other obvious advantage is the synergism and strength derived from being connected and intimately related to a multi-national media and information conglomerate with respectable resources at their disposal.  A single cruiser may be faster and more maneuverable but in comparison with an entire naval fleet wouldn’t last long in a firefight.

PIERS has elaborate normalization and refinement procedures in place for handling U.S. Customs data

On a more micro level, PIERS has some particular competitive advantages over other TI Providers that offer searching and reporting utilities atop U.S. Customs data, including:

  • They’re the ONLY ones to offer transactional waterborne export data.  The combination of reciprocal information exchanges with many ports & carriers along with an extensive staff stationed at ports collecting data is going to make this aspect hard to replicate.  Hence, PIERS is the only company that can provide BOTH sides of the import – export transactional picture.
  • PIERS attributes a harmonized code, many times down to the 6 digit level, to the individual shipment manifests.  Consequently, they assign estimated trade values by connecting said code to U.S. Census statistical data.  Arguably the values are many times askew, but as they say, “Bad breath is better than no breath at all”.  Nobody else even attempts it.
  • They are the best at data standardization and normalization, overall.  Many of us have done interesting, innovative and truly remarkable things with U.S. Customs data (and vastly superior in many ways) but the benchmark and standard is and always has been set by PIERS.

In the forthcoming articles, we will look at the specific “families” of products (both evolved and acquired) that currently comprise the expansive PIERS arsenal of Trade Intelligence.

Import Genius Part 4: Competitive Strengths and Needed Improvements

When I asked Ryan how he saw Import Genius relative to other TI providers and what were Import Genuis’ competitive strengths, he recounted the following:

  • Innovation and product development.
  • Visual Mapping utility.
  • Customer service with 24/7 a day phone support.
  • Overall cheaper than their competitors so you get more for your money.
  • Easy to use search tools created for “ordinary” people.
  • LOVE: They demonstrate more practical care for their customers.

Customer love is sweet

Since I’m not a customer (nor have I spoken with Import Genius customers), I can’t speak to the reality of the last claim.  I will, however, say that talking to Ryan on the phone for an hour or so and “feeling” the love, passion and conviction that he has for his company and product… well, he made a believer out of me.

As far as customers are concerned, Mr. Petersen said that about half are composed of small to medium-sized importers.  Another 30-40% are overseas suppliers looking for U.S. buyers (mostly from India and China). The third segment is primarily composed of freight forwarders (looking for prospects) and lawyers (checking for intellectual property violations and compliance type issues).

The two biggest areas of improvement needed to the Import Genius interface are:

  1. Data normalization and refinement.  U.S. Customs data needs a lot of tender loving care and many refinement processes in order to yield its succulent treasures.  Despite good intentions, passion, vision and street smarts, the beginning, middle and end of the matter has to be about the DATA.
  2.  Dimensionality and depth.  Much of Trade Intelligence is about connecting the dots.  The greater number of important dots you connect, the greater the smarts.  Statistical data, reverential data, company data, third-party credit data, tariff data, there are a plethora of sources and lots of dots to connect depending up on your particular business application.

I also don’t know IG revenues compared to those of the other Top Tier TI providers. They didn’t start with VC partners like Panjiva or Datamyne did.  They don’t have the infrastructure and history of PIERS.  However, if they can figure out a way to better refine the data, connect the dots and get more traction in the marketplace, I’d say they’d be pretty dangerous… to their competitors that is.

Import Genius Part 3: Target Markets, Product Demos and Pricing Plans

Each TI provider approaches the market a little differently. In the case of Import Genius, they have one all purpose interface which can be applied to several business purposes, as stated on their website:

  • Evaluate Suppliers. If you’re importing from overseas, we’ll help you find high quality suppliers. Our shipping records reveal customers, product lines, and exporting volumes for factories around the world. View Demo.
  • Monitor Competitors. Would you like to know where your competitors source their products? Our data reveals suppliers, product volumes, and industry trends for U.S. importers and distribution companies.  View Demo.
  • Find Sales Prospects. If you sell products or services to U.S. importers, our data lets you qualify prospects based on their shipping histories. View Demo.
  • Research Markets. If your livelihood depends on having the most accurate and up-to-date economic data, you need our business intelligence. (No specific Demo.)

Import Genius web site in Chinese

Although not specifically called an application on their website, they have produced an interesting video on how U.S. Customs data can be used to analyze publicly traded companies.  In addition, they provide videos illustrating three actual business cases where Import Genius was utilized by Apple, 3M and Travertine Imports.

Two other items of interest: First of all, their website can be viewed either in English OR Chinese.  Kudos!  They have an affiliate office in Shanghai.  Way to be culturally savvy and strategic!   Secondly, their headquarters is officially based in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.  Great idea for corporate retreats!

Import Genius is very reasonably priced.  They have three pricing options: $99, $199 and $399 per month, allowing 40, 80 and 300 daily searches on datasets of 45 days, 1 year or multi-year (all records since 2006).   No visual mapping is provided for the $99 plan.

import genius pricing plans

Import Genius Part 2: Product Demo with Cool Visual Mapping Utility

Instead of enduring a canned demo, I asked Ryan if we could use Import Genius to search for a product of my choosing, in this case Mopeds, 50cc or under, sourced from China. Coincidentally, motor scooters were one of the products that Ryan and his brother had successfully imported in times past.  He was more than accommodating.

Therefore, we went on a live hunt for Chinese scooter suppliers.  The interface was more than adequate for the task, providing a list of suppliers that could then be filtered and sorted using various criteria.  There was a nifty tag cloud condensation of the manifest files that was particularly interesting.  Of course, the results set could then be exported into an Excel spreadsheet.  Searches could be saved for future reference.

Overall, the interface was clean and functioned well. It was also fast and efficient with the tasks given it.  The Data was less than 1 week old.  Some TI providers take weeks before their data is ready for prime time.  At CenTradeX we could turn it around and have it live within 24 hours, if pressed.

The very coolest, most innovative thing I saw was the dynamic visual mapping utility.  For instance, you can start with a potential Chinese supplier and see a visual map of their top ten customers in the U.S.  Then, you can click one of the displayed customers and, in turn, see their 10 top suppliers.  It’s a fantastic, graphic way to follow the supply chain and vet potential factories.

Several years ago I played with a linguistics version – a free visual online dictionary.  It’s fun to play with.  Try it yourself at or Visuwords.  My personal favorite is Visual Thesaurus.  The engine behind the Visual Thesaurus is called ThinkMap, which is available on a license basis and has been used in many interesting applications.  Import Genius has had the genius to apply this type of technology to international trade.