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Broker says Asia-Europe spot rates hit $750 per TEU

Rates fall after a “pretty good summer” for liner carriers.

   Ricky Forman, a container forward freight agreement broker at Freight Investor Services (FIS) in London, said in a note to clients Thursday morning “we are hearing spot rates in Asia are being offered as low as $750 per TEU for Asia-NWE (northwest Europe) route.”
   The Shanghai Shipping Exchange’s Shanghai Containerized Shipping Index (SCFI) last Friday pegged the Asia-to-North Europe liner rate at $1,055 per TEU, down $130 from the prior week, and down from $1,455 on Aug. 1.
   Richard Ward, a container derivatives broker/analyst at FIS, said “during the summer, rates this year have been pretty strong on average from Asia to Northwest Europe. But in the last month or so it really has reversed.”
   He said FIS has heard some reports of very low rates offered on ZIM ships as it winds down its service from Asia to North Europe. ZIM’s schedule shows one vessel sailing per month from Shanghai to Rotterdam in September, October and November.
   “That, as well as lower utilization, has forced the spot market down, particularly in the last couple of weeks,” Ward said. “That has been reflected in the GRI (general rate increase), which essentially has not come in this month. In the past four to six weeks the market has taken a turn for the worse in terms of utilization and that is pretty much what drives the rate.
    “$750–it seems a little bit of a free-fall, where carriers are just saying ‘people are undercutting, let’s just do the same.’ It’s the usual story,” he added. “One or two carriers offer low rates, and then within a matter of days other carriers do the same because they are getting hassled by their customers to offer lower rates… [and at] the end of the day, if they don’t they will go to someone else and ship it cheaper.”
   Ward said his firm hasn’t “seen it that much this year because the demand has been a lot stronger than what people have been expecting. The last time it was below $1,000 per TEU was in March, just after Chinese New Year.”
   Meanwhile, he expects the spot rate to move lower tomorrow, when the updated SCFI is published.
   The SCFI rate for cargo moving from Asia to the U.S. West Coast was $2,195 per 40-foot equivalent unit (FEU), down $109, and from Asia to the U.S. East Coast was $4,524, down $112 per FEU.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.