Shippers compete as container freight rates continue to rise

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Shippers from Asia to Europe have experienced a further increase in container spot rates, especially in Mediterranean ports.

And ocean carriers are said to be preparing big rate increases in the near term as cargo turnover becomes the norm.

In transpacific shipping, carriers are “sold out” for the rest of May and June, and this week’s spot rate increases from Asia to the U.S. West and East Coasts were described by one shipper as “academic.”

The Northern European component of the Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) rose 5% this week to $8,127 per 40 feet, a remarkable 475% increase over the same week last year.

In the Mediterranean, the spot FBX index soared 10% to $8,868 per 40 feet as Asian shippers rushed for space to meet urgent inventory replenishment for the summer vacation season.s short-term rates have soared 345% compared to 12 months ago.

The Ningbo Containerized Freight Index commentary has reported that “considerable cargoes” have been rolled up for Europe as demand for space “remains very high.”

FAK carrier rates to northern Europe of up to $14,000 per 40ft, with one Shenzhen-based forwarder offering a “very good rate”, with space guaranteed, of $12,000 per 40ft from major Chinese ports to Felixstowe or London Gateway for a late May shipment.

On the trans-Pacific trade lane, this week’s FBX recorded a 3.5% increase for Asia to the U.S. West Coast, to $5,015 per 40 feet, and a 5.5% increase in spot rates for the East Coast, to $6,584 per 40 feet.

The U.S. National Retail Federation predicts that the replenishment of low inventory levels by retailers will continue for several more months and into the peak season.

“Space in May is already full, and demand will remain healthy through the start of the third quarter,” said Jon Monroe of Washington state-based Jon Monroe Consulting.

Maersk said this week it had finalized more than 80% of its long-term contracts, but while the transpacific contract season is nearly complete, Mr. Monroe suggested some carriers were “struggling with the transition” to new contracts.

“In many cases, space for new contracts for carriers that have switched carriers is not available until mid-June. But will it be better then? I think not,” he says. “The problem this year is that carriers have undoubtedly reduced their MQCs to budget for record FAK/premium rates.”

Meanwhile, on the normally robust transatlantic route, northern European shippers continue to struggle for space and are forced to pay much higher rates with a number of surcharges and premium rates to secure shipment.

The FBX component for northern Europe to the U.S. East Coast rose 4% this week to $3,558 per 40 feet, nearly double the rate a year ago. And CMA CGM has raised its premium Sea Priority Go rate on the liner to $2,000 per 40 feet.

“So you book your box at premium rates, pay the PSS and BAF, and then, to make sure the container is actually shipped, you have to pay another $2,000,” one carrier decried.

Because spot market rates only represent average market rates, shippers are often frustrated that they can’t book space at indexed rates.

“Shippers paying those rate levels have no guarantee that empty equipment will be released or guaranteed to be reserved.”

Source The Loadstar

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