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Forwarders ‘fear the worst’ and

‘don’t have a clue’

on shipping rates next year



Container spot rates are edging up again across most tradelanes, with a big spike expected in January ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.

According to today’s Ningbo Containerized Freight Index (NCFI), 15 of its 21 routes recorded modest increases against a continuing backdrop of tight capacity.

And from Asia to North Europe, Drewry’s World Container Index (WCI) was flat, at $13,564 per 40ft, the Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) ticked up 1%, to $14,345, while the new Xeneta (XSI-C) index improved by 3%, to $14,443 per 40ft.

Several carriers are now reported to be offering forwarders and NVOCCs Asia-North Europe rates with a validity of just two weeks and declining to agree any short-term contracts before CNY in February.

A UK-based NVOCC with offices in China told The Loadstar this week its carrier rep was continually “making excuses”, stalling on contract negotiations and  was “either lying or genuinely hadn’t been told” about the carrier’s contract policy for next year.

For this shipper and many other small and mid-sized carrier customers, there is a significant amount of uncertainty clouding their 2022 budgets. “We’ve not seen anyone offering or honouring deals other than spot rates for a long time. Everyone is saying ‘let’s talk after CNY’,” he added. Another UK forwarder contact told The Loadstar he “feared the worst” and that other carriers would follow the lead of Maersk, effectively excluding smaller shippers from enjoying any rate stability next year. “Our customers want to know how much their freight costs will be next year and, with only a couple of weeks to go, we really do not have a clue,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the transpacific, the WCI this week saw Asia-US components jump by 5% to the west coast, to $10,138 per 40ft, and iby 4% for east coast ports, to $13,118. The FBX, which includes premium fees, inched up 1% to the west coast, to $14,924 per 40ft, while east coast ports recorded an increase of 2.5%, to $17,195.

Notwithstanding the end of the peak season on the route, the NCFI commentary noted that demand “was still at a high level”.

Of the vessels still awaiting a berth at the San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the ad hoc-chartered 3,398 teu panamax Zhong Gu Shan Dong has been at anchor for 51 days, with no immediate indication of when it will get worked. The cost of this idling alone will mean a huge bill for the charterers, estimated by one broker contact to be in excess of $5m.

Meanwhile, a Chinese forwarder gave a heads-up to The Loadstar this week, suggesting that due to the CNY falling at the same time as the Beijing Winter Olympics (4-20 February) the government would encourage factories to remain open during the holiday, so there would be no usual CNY production drop.


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