Records tumble for box spot rates across the world

The remarkable bull-run seen in container spot rates is creating records across the seven seas, and spooking regulators. 

Analysts at Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence report that five out of the nine deepsea trades measured by the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) spot rates show records with other tradelanes approaching record territory, either in terms of the rate level, or in terms of the pace of increases.

The transpacific to the west coast is the strongest with rates approaching $4,000 per feu, followed by Shanghai to West Africa where rates stand at a record $3,105 per teu. 

Meanwhile, the average weekly spot rate increase for the trade from Shanghai to the US East Coast leapt a record $258.50 per feu last week, a rate of increase which even surpasses the increases seen in early 2016 and early 2017. Similarly the weekly average rate increases from Shanghai to East Coast South America have seen a very sharp increase in recent weeks and the current average rate of increase has now reached a record $398 per teu for the past week. 

Elsewhere, increases for the Shanghai-South Africa trade exhibit a similar sudden sharp spike in recent weeks like those seen to South America.

Other trade lanes are bubbling up too. “The trade to Australia is rapidly approaching record spot rate levels but is not fully there (yet),” Sea-Intelligence noted. 

The notable laggard is the important Asia-Europe tradelane, which remains some distance off other areas. 

“The market is in the unique, unprecedented – and effectively unpredictable – situation, that in the midst of a global pandemic and economic downturn, the freight rates are skyrocketing and carriers are posting extremely strong quarterly results for Q2, with expectations of even better results in Q3,” the consultancy observed.

The extraordinary rates, created by clever use of blanked sailings, has not gone unnoticed by regulators with both Chinese and American authorities beginning to ask questions about the situation. 

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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