Container shipping lines push for rates increase as capacity begins to tighten

Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Source: The Loadstar

Asia-North Europe ocean carriers are looking to hike container shipping rates by up to $500 per teu from 1 July, as space availability begins to tighten with the start of the peak season.

Carriers appear to be adopting a “shock and awe” tactic of a substantial FAK increase rather than gradual smaller rises, knowing they may not get a better opportunity before demand weakens again as the peak season fizzles out.

One carrier source told The Loadstar this week it had decided to “make a statement” with a significant increase.

“We know we will not get the full amount, but even if we had asked for $200 we wouldn’t get that either, so we have nothing to lose and more to gain,” he argued.

The FAK announcements come as container spot rates continued to soften across all major trades this week.

The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) fell 3.4% this week to 751, more than 9% down on a year ago.

The North Europe component declined 3.2% on the week, to $834 per teu, as carriers postponed emergency bunker surcharges (EBS) amid fears of conceding market share to rivals.

On the more robust Mediterranean trade, spot rates edged down by a smaller 1.1%, to $905 per teu.

But transpacific carriers suffered another disappointing week with spot rates losing more ground.

Rates from Asia to the US west coast tumbled 5.7% to $1,194 per feu, and for east coast ports there was a decline of 2.5% on the week, to $2,181 per feu.

After a 6.8% fall the previous week, rates to the US west coast are now at levels that are hurting carriers serving the route.

The container lines had been obliged to cancel planned 15 June GRIs due to a dip in vessel utilisation levels, and this week saw the first reaction from the carriers: MSC announced it was to terminate its New Eagle service, jointly operated with 2M partner Maersk Line (TP1) early next month.

The weekly loop, with a rotation of Kaohsiung-Yantian-Xiamen-Shanghai-Busan-Vancouver-Seattle and then back to Asia, deploys six panamax vessels, four operated by MSC and two by Maersk.

MSC said it was “as a result of the challenging operating environment for business on the transpacific trade”.

It offered a “contingency plan” for the transfer of forward bookings onto other loops, which it said, it hoped would give “limited disruption” to shippers.

And, in addition to the current demand-supply imbalance, transpacific carriers face further problems from the fallout of the escalating trade war between the US and China. Alphaliner estimated this week that the punitive tariffs being imposed by both nations could wipe out around 7% of transpacific volumes from next month.

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