Freight Rates

Freight Charges Falling – However How Far & How Lengthy?

Ocean freight charges are falling. Sure, they’re nonetheless extraordinarily excessive, however they’re shifting in the suitable route. Greg Miller reported this week in Freight Waves that international spot charges for ocean transport is greater than quadruple pre-pandemic ranges. Nevertheless, it wasn’t that way back that I used to be writing about transport a container throughout the ocean costing greater than 5 instances pre-pandemic charges.

Falling Freight Charge Development

This isn’t only a blip on the display screen of a momentary dip. We actually are seeing a pattern of falling freight charges.

Miller writes, “… charges are actually materially decrease than they have been just a few months in the past — and falling by the week. The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) logged its fifteenth consecutive weekly loss on Friday.”

Whereas there have been combined indicators about freight charges coming down, Miller reviews, “As of mid-Could, indicators are way more aligned: pointing down.”

All Indices Pointing Down

His article shared a number of indices displaying important drops in freight charges: the FBX Asia-West Coast evaluation from Could 2nd to eleventh confirmed charges down 25%, and even after a bit rise afterward remains to be down 33% from late September’s all-time excessive; the Drewry Shanghai-Los Angeles evaluation as of final week was down 23% from the third week in January and 30% from its report in September; the FBX Asia-East Coast price evaluation dropped 15% between Could 2nd and thirteenth, 28% down from its report excessive in late September; the Drewry Shanghai-New York price evaluation fell 22% from mid-January and 32% from its all-time excessive in September; and even the Platts Container Charge Index, which had been displaying Asia-USEC charges rising whereas different indices confirmed decline, now exhibits charges to the East Coast down 11% per FEU from highs in April and to the West Coast, down 16% since its all-time excessive in February.

Yeah, that’s plenty of knowledge to pack right into a sentence, nevertheless it all provides as much as the long-awaited falling of freight charges. However will it final?

Inflation Took Longer However Hit More durable

Since 2020, when lockdowns and stimuli first hit and freight charges began skyrocketing, I’ve been predicting that reopening spreading spending again to incorporate journey, providers, and leisure once more; stimulus checks operating out; the injury of misplaced companies; and inflation from large, large governmental spending would ultimately damage demand and make freight charges drop. It took longer than I anticipated for our damaging response to COVID-19 to essentially begin taking its toll. I believed inflation would arrive sooner. However even because it took longer to hit, the inflation is worse than I anticipated. That’s partly as a result of I additionally underestimated the quantity of irresponsible spending, together with stimuli, and cash printing Washington would execute.

It’s unlikely we’re even near seeing the worst of the financial fallout from our actions but.

Components that May Prop Up Freight Charges

Freight charges have an important deal extra falling to do. Nevertheless, there are components that threaten to cease the autumn, even make charges surge once more, earlier than resuming the downward trajectory that it’s stated all issues that go up should have.

ILWU Contract Negotiations

The most important and nearest risk to falling freight charges is contract negotiations between the Worldwide Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Affiliation (PMA). There was an excessive amount of fear that the difficulty of automation will make these negotiations, which have solely simply begun, contentious. When negotiations between the West Coast dockworkers and their employers bought contentious in 2014-15, the ensuing port congestion was extraordinarily pricey for everybody. A repeat might clog the ports which can be nonetheless recovering from horrendous congestion that got here with all of the months of surging imports {that a} lack of automation helped make an excessive amount of for ports to deal with.

Recently, I’m beginning to see extra optimism that the present negotiations received’t interrupt port operations just like the 2014-15 ones did, leaving agricultural exports rotting on the docks and holding imported items from reaching retailer cabinets in time for the Christmas buying season. For instance, Invoice Mongelluzzo wrote an article for the Journal of Commerce (JOC) final month with the headline, “Stakeholders rising assured ILWU contract talks received’t disrupt port operations.”

Alternatively, simply earlier than negotiations opened, the PMA launched a examine that claimed automation created jobs on the ports. The ILWU referred to as the examine self-serving and denied PMA’s declare. Clearly, right here at Common Cargo, we’ll be monitoring the contract negotiations and any labor strife slowdowns or interruptions that will ensue.

Peak Season

One other factor that would sluggish the autumn of freight charges is the fast-approaching peak season. The height season could also be dampened some by inflation and the truth that some shippers imported early out of worry that ILWU contract negotiations could choke up ports when shippers import essentially the most in preparation for the again to highschool and vacation buying seasons. Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless the time of yr that demand is at its top for importing items, and it’s laborious to think about there received’t be sufficient demand to make an affect.

China’s “Covid Zero” Lockdowns

The height season is additional difficult by China’s lockdowns, significantly in Shanghai, from the nation’s insane “Covid Zero” insurance policies. The disruption to Chinese language manufacturing and exporting has some trade consultants fearing a surge in exports there as soon as the lockdowns are lifted. That might coincide with peak season, as China is reportedly aiming for June to carry lockdowns. After all, any reported particulars of what the Communist Get together of China is planning needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Nonetheless, the interruption to factories and ports in China is huge and sending waves by way of international provide chains. Normally, a results of massive disruptions to the provision chain is larger freight charges.


There are sufficient components to place upward stress on freight charges that we in all probability received’t see them absolutely implode within the upcoming months. Nevertheless, the heights they’ve reached can’t be maintained without end. Moreover, inflation is hurting U.S. demand, which had been artificially inflated in the course of the pandemic. Even when there’s a pause on this pattern of falling freight charges – and there might even be some enhance within the upcoming months – there’s way more falling for the charges to do. We’re simply seeing the start.

After all, it’s laborious to get too enthusiastic about that with the greenback turning into weaker and weaker underneath the load of trillions in authorities debt. There does come some extent when inflation’s downward stress on the worth of the greenback outweighs its diminished demand that creates downward stress on freight charges. We do appear to be on a harmful path towards that end result.

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