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Ocean freight spot rates stay close to record highs

Defying the normal slump in the period after Chinese New Year, cargo backlogs, port congestion, equipment shortages and sustained high volumes keep prices at elevated levels

Ocean freight spot rates have remained close to record highs on the main east-west trades, defying the normal annual pattern of falling in the weeks after Chinese New Year, with the cargo backlogs, port congestion, equipment shortages and sustained high volumes keeping prices high.

In its latest freight rate assessments on eight major East-West trades, Drewry’s composite World Container index decreased this week by 2.2% or $117 to stand at $5,121 per 40ft container – still more than three times its level (+232.6%) a year ago, despite slight falls on most of the main lanes.

The average composite index of the WCI, assessed by Drewry for year-to-date, is $5,231 per 40ft container, which is $3,539 higher than the five-year average of $1,692 per 40ft container.

Freight rates on Shanghai-Rotterdam weakened this week by 3% or $286 to reach $8,188 for a 40ft box, but remain more than four times their level a year ago.

Spot prices on Shanghai-Los Angeles also dropped 3% to $4,261 per feu, although rates from Shanghai to New York grew $23 to reach $6,651 per feu.

Rates from Shanghai to Genoa fell 1% or $106 to $8,505 for a 40ft container. Also, rates on Rotterdam-Shanghai slipped $16 to $1,402 for a 40ft box.

Drewry expects rates to stabilise in the next week.

The latest Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) shows spot rates for China-Northern Europe at $3,966 per 20 ft unit, representing a 3.5% fall against its pre-Chinese New Year level, according to Lloyd’s List. The SCFI shows a 1% increase on the headhaul China-US west coast trade during this four-week period to $4,078 per feu, and a marginal uptick of 0.2% on the China-US east coast route to $4,808 per feu.

Source: Lloyds Loading List

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