Freight Rates

What’s Really Occurring with Freight Charges Proper Now

Within the final weblog, we checked out how – with the slowing financial system – retailers and shippers are reducing their imports and anticipated to maintain doing so in 2023. As mentioned, that ought to imply reducing freight charges, however there are a number of elements that might cease them from falling. In the present day, as an alternative of projecting, let’s have a look at what is definitely occurring with freight charges proper now.

Common Downward Development

I’ve talked about in plenty of latest blogs that freight charges have lastly began coming down a bit. Sadly, there hasn’t been an enormous, sudden drop. Somewhat, freight charges have merely been trending downward in latest months.

Ocean freight charges for container delivery are now not greater than 500% larger than they have been pre-pandemic. I bear in mind vividly, in October of 2021 first having to painfully write that freight charges have been greater than 5 occasions what they have been earlier than the pandemic hit. The best way freight charges had skyrocketed was downright scary – applicable for the month of Halloween.

Frankly, freight charges are nonetheless extremely excessive. They’re nonetheless a number of occasions larger than pre-pandemic freight charges. However no less than they’ve been shifting in the suitable route and are actually considerably decrease than when freight charges have been at their peak.

Downward Development Plateaued, However Don’t Fear

Whereas freight charges have been trending down, right here within the final month or so, container delivery charges have leveled off. In reality, some even simply went again up a bit. Nonetheless, we’re in worldwide delivery’s peak season, and port congestion continues to be an issue. Peak season’s demand sometimes will increase freight charge as does port congestion by limiting capability.

Due to this fact, shippers shouldn’t panic, considering the decline in freight charges is over and now we’re going to look at them skyrocket larger and better once more.

Why No Large Drop in Freight Charges?

After all, what shippers preserve hoping to see is an enormous drop in container freight charges. And why not? The dry bulk delivery sector appears to have gotten one.

For an MSN article on Sunday (August seventh), Anish Mondal even used the phrase “freight falls steeply” within the headline. Mondal experiences:

The Baltic Dry index, which gives a benchmark for sea freight of shifting main uncooked supplies stood at 1,560 factors on Friday, its lowest level since February as demand remained weak throughout all vessel classes amid the uncertainty round international financial progress. The index, which takes under consideration 23 completely different delivery routes, has declined by 23% in [the] final one month and 53% in a 12 months.

If dry bulk delivery can steeply fall, why not container delivery?

As if in response to this very query, Greg Miller wrote the next in a wonderful American Shipper article, revealed Monday (August eighth), about freight charges:

There’s an outdated Greek delivery saying that goes: “Ninety-eight tankers and 101 cargoes, increase. Ninety-eight cargoes and 101 tankers, bust.” This doesn’t translate so nicely into modern-day container delivery as a result of the consolidated liner sector manages the variety of ships in service loads higher than the fragmented tanker enterprise.

Tanker spot charges can plunge violently decrease when provide exceeds demand. One of many large questions for container delivery has been: Will spot charges plunge precipitously after demand pulls again, because it has previously in bulk commodity delivery? Or will there be a gradual decline towards a smooth touchdown?

Up to now, it appears to be like gradual. Trans-Pacific charges have steadied in July and early August. In reality, some indexes present spot charges ticking larger once more.

Spot charges are no less than briefly plateauing as a result of U.S. import demand stays above pre-COVID ranges, some U.S. ports stay extraordinarily congested, and ocean carriers are “blanking” or “voiding” (i.e., canceling) sailings, each as a result of their ships are caught in port queues and since they’re matching vessel provide with cargo demand to avert the destiny of Greek tanker house owners.

Carriers blanking sailings was one of many elements I talked about within the final weblog that may cease freight charges from dropping. Since all the main ocean freight delivery traces banded collectively into service alliances, they’ve actually been in a position coordinate and management the quantity capability in delivery lanes. They clean sailings, keep away from demand falling beneath provide, and preserve freight charges from tumbling.

Again when carriers struggled with overcapacity, carriers handled losses within the billions of {dollars}. Now, their income are within the billions of {dollars}. And shippers pay extra to import and export.

Freight Price Knowledge

One of many good issues about Miller’s article is it incorporates knowledge from completely different freight charge indices collectively in a single place. There’s variation between indices as they collect their knowledge otherwise. The largest distinction typically has to do with whether or not they use base degree freight charges or embody varied charges carriers add to these charges. The extra of those charge indices you have a look at, the better it’s to see the traits in freight charges.

Miller typically shares this sort of knowledge in his articles and even offers some evaluation by evaluating present freight charges to earlier ones, as he does right here:

The Freightos Baltic Each day Index (FBX) Asia-West Coast evaluation was at $6,692 per forty-foot equal unit on Friday.

The excellent news for shippers reserving spot cargo: That’s simply one-third of the all-time peak this index reached in September. The dangerous information: Friday’s evaluation is up 2.7% from the low of $6,519 per FEU hit on Aug. 2, and it’s nonetheless 4.5 occasions larger than the speed presently of 12 months in 2019, pre-COVID.

The FBX Asia-East Coast spot charge evaluation was at $9,978 per FEU on Friday, lower than half the document excessive in September. Nonetheless, it was up 3.5% from the latest low of $9,640 on Aug. 2 and nonetheless 3.6 occasions larger than 2019 ranges.

The weekly index from Drewry portrays a gentler descent than the FBX, as a result of Drewry didn’t embody premium expenses in its spot assessments on the peak.

In contrast to the FBX, Drewry’s Shanghai-Los Angeles evaluation doesn’t present a latest uptick. It was at $6,985 per FEU for the week introduced final Thursday, its lowest level since June 2021. It was down 44% from its all-time excessive in late November 2021, albeit nonetheless 4.2 occasions larger than charges presently of 12 months in 2019.

Drewry’s weekly Shanghai-New York evaluation was at $9,774 per FEU on Friday. Charges have been comparatively secure over the previous two week, but the newest studying is the bottom since June 2021 and down 40% from the height in mid-September.

Drewry’s Shanghai-New York evaluation on this route continues to be 3.5 occasions pre-COVID ranges.

Hole Rising Between East Coast & West Coast Charges

Delivery from Asia to the East Coast is all the time dearer than Asia to the West Coast, however the price hole is rising.

We’ve touched on East and Gulf Coast port congestion plenty of occasions these days in Common Cargo’s weblog. It has gotten fairly extreme. East and Gulf Coast ports have seen vital influxes in cargo as shippers have diverted cargo there from West Coast ports for a few causes.

Severity of congestion that has been seen for thus lengthy at West Coast ports is likely one of the motive shippers moved entry factors. Uncertainty over the Worldwide Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) contract negotiations is one other. Now there’s additionally the problem of truckers in California demonstrating and placing over Meeting Invoice 5 that will increase threat of disruption at ports like these of Los Angeles, Lengthy Seashore, and Oakland.

As beforehand acknowledged, port congestion tends to restrict capability and improve freight charges. Simply yesterday, Teri Errico Griffis reported within the Journal of Commerce on Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk extending restrictions on a joint service to the East Coast due to the congestion there.

Right here’s the info on the speed hole Miller shares in his article:

Each day assessments from S&P International Commodities (previously Platts) present a widening divergence between North Asia-West Coast and North Asia-East Coast Freight All Sorts (FAK) charges.

S&P International assessed Friday’s North Asia-East Coast FAK charge at $9,750 per FEU, up 2.6% from the latest low hit on July 29. Spot charges on this route have roughly plateaued since late April, in accordance with this index.

S&P International put Friday’s North Asia-West Coast charge at $6,500 per FEU, nonetheless regularly falling and on the lowest level since late June 2021. The hole with East Coast assessments has been widening since Might, with the East Coast charges now 50% larger than West Coast charges.


Freight charges are slowly coming down and specialists anticipate them to proceed to take action. However regularly. Between the present port congestion and peak season, there gained’t possible be a lot freight charge decline in the intervening time. There might even be some will increase just like these seen final week.

Labor strife from the ILWU throughout the present contract negotiations, the threat of rail stoppage or slowdown (mentioned in earlier posts), and service alliances’ management of capability might considerably hinder freight charges from dropping. In reality, these elements even have the potential of pushing charges up.

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