Economic double-whammy and softening demand add to pressure on box carriers
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Carriers were rewarded for their proactivity in the run-up to Chinese New Year, heading off the traditional seasonal rate tumble with capacity cuts.
Following last week’s round of regressions, this week’s container spot rates on the major routes remained mostly stable.
Only on Asia-Europe sailings did the rate of decline intensify, down 1.7% week-on-week to $1,023, according to today’s Shanghai Container Freight Index (SCFI), compared with last week’s dip of 1.05%.
Asia-Mediterranean sailings saw an increase, though not one to crow about, of 0.2% to $988, while last week’s biggest loser, Asia-US west coast sailings, benefited most from the capacity cuts.
The SCFI showed justification of the decision by G6 Alliance partners OOCL and Hapag Lloyd and 2M Alliance member MSC to cut several west coast sailings. There was a mere 0.7% dip to $2,092 compared with last week’s 2.3% decline.
For US east coast, rates repeated last week’s uninspiring increase of 0.1%, to $3,639, but, considering the season and the effective shutdown of Chinese ports, this registered as a success.
Even on secondary routes, capacity management proved relatively effective, with Asia-South America east coast sailings – so often left volatile by cascading fleet management – recording a decline of 3.6% week-on-week to $1,982.
CMA CGM took the decision to impose a general rate increase (GRI) of $500 per teu on the route for 15 February.
Similarly, Maersk announced on 30 January it would be issuing GRIs of $160 per teu on US east coast to Asia sailings and $480 per teu on Asia to US east coast sailings until 1 March.
Container freight pricing platform Xeneta expected carriers to pull 33% of capacity this week, with further cuts of 10% and 8% over the next two weeks. Chief executive Patrik Berglund told The Loadstar this amounted to some 200,000 teu.
He said: “This means container lines are taking stronger measures to try and keep rate levels up, which makes a distinct difference with this period normally.
“Rates traditionally slide in the aftermath of Chinese New Year, this year, however, there is a stronger chance rates will stay at the levels we have seen recently, and may even go up.”