Singapore leads the world in providing logistics capacity to facilitate trade, according to a recent report by the World Bank: Connecting to Compete 2012: Trade Logistics in the Global Economy.
The United States scored ninth out of the 155 national economies ranked by the Logistics Performance Index (LPI), a compilation of six metrics to measure a nation's logistics performance. The U.S. was ranked 15th in the last report, which was issued in 2010. The first report was published in 2007.
Germany held the top spot in the 2010 report, but it fell to fourth in the most recent finding.
To develop the rankings, World Bank economists gathered 6,000 individual country assessments from nearly 1,000 international freight forwarders. Each freight forwarder rated the eight foreign countries that it serves most frequently.
In the report, Singapore scored highest in two categories: the efficiency of the clearance process and the frequency with which shipments reached consignees within the expected or scheduled delivery times. Its lowest scores were for its ability to track and trace consignments and in the competence and quality of logistics services. Even for those two categories, however, it still finished sixth out of 155 countries.
The United States' highest ranking was in the track-and-trace category, where it finished third. Its lowest rank—17th—was in the category "ease of arranging competitively priced shipments."
According to the report, high-income economies dominate the top logistics rankings, but logistics performance is not determined solely by a country's per-capita income. Infrastructure was the main driver of progress among the top performers, followed by improvements in logistics services, and customs and border management, according to Mona Haddad, sector manager of the World Bank's International Trade Department. "All top performers show strong cooperation between the public and private sectors, and a comprehensive approach in the development of services, infrastructure, and efficient logistics," she said in a statement.
From 2007 to 2010, the "logistics quality gap" between high- and low-performing countries narrowed, according to the report. That gap, however, did not continue to shrink during the past two years. The report said the stalled improvement likely reflected decisions by governments to shift priorities from logistics reform to combating the global economic downturn and the European sovereign debt crisis.
Researchers also asked respondents how frequently shippers ask for environmentally friendly options for transporting their cargo. According to the report, more than 30 percent of the respondents said shippers often or almost always ask for environmentally friendly alternatives when shipping to high-income, developed nations. However, only 10 percent of respondents said shippers ask for environmentally conscious options when shipping to low-income, less-developed countries.
The top 10 countries for trade logistics were as follows: