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Sunday, November 4, 2012

40' container rates between Shanghai and Rotterdam spike up $788 last week!

Most container lines in the world are still struggling with over-capacity in ships for the current world cargo transportation task and little or no growth is forecast in cargo volumes in the coming year.

A break even result is the best many of these shipping lines can hope for with the prevailing market conditions. Despite over-capacity in ships which usually leads to lower freight rates, last week a huge and key market segment from China to Europe saw a massive increase in rates of $788 per 40' container/FEU(Forty foot Equivalent Unit). That is a 38% increase in a single week taking the average cost to ship a 40' container to US$2865.00.

(source-World Container Index)

As you can see by the rate history over the last year, rates at some stages have tripled and between January and July, effectively quadrupled.

What is causing this upward volatility when the usual rules of supply and demand suggest rates should be going lower?

Carriers are endeavouring to remove tonnage from some trade lanes to address the vessel over-capacity but the delivery of a profitable bottom line for them is the real driver after the terrible losses many of them have suffered the past couple of years. Ship owners are being forced to increase rates to ensure they stay profitable and are here in the long run. Slow steaming is still commonplace to keep fuel and operating costs to a minimum.

In my opinion we are going to see tremendous rationalisation and consolidation with shipping lines in 2013 and continued rate volatility. It just has to happen as charter rates are still low and they just can't keep carrying on with the financial performance of the last two years.

I would suggest that not only for the shipping industry but many other industries, "Volatility" is the new normal business environment that everyone has to get used too. Being lean, debt free, commercially agile and nimble will give operators the best prospects of survival.

All for now,

Brad Skelton

The Shipping Bloke