The US$311 per 40ft increase in the benchmark rate shows that Transpacific Stabilisation Agreement (TSA) member carriers’ achieved around 50% of their intended US$600 PSS price increase target.
“Cargo demand and carrier load factors have strengthened in the run up to Chinese New Year,” explained Martin Dixon, Drewry’s research manager for freight rate benchmarking. “The wild card remains the threat of strike action at US East Coast and Gulf Coast ports which is also serving to strengthen rates.”
The latest price increase brought the container rate benchmark back to the same level it was in October, but the index remains 12% off last year’s peak reached in August.
The transpacific has proved more resilient than the Asia-Europe trade to the overcapacity plaguing the industry. Drewry’s Transpacific Eastbound Freight Rate Index, a weighted average of freight rates across multiple trades between Far East Asia and North America, climbed 8% in December compared with the previous month, to reach US$3,357 per 40ft container. It now stands just 2% off last year’s high reached in September 2012.
However, given the increase in capacity on the trade compared with a year ago the stability in spot rates may not prove sustainable. “The US East Coast and Gulf Coast strike threat notwithstanding, we expect spot rates to soften following Chinese New Year,” added Dixon.
“However, we caution that shippers should expect some increase in their 2012-13 contract rates on the eastbound transpacific, given the stronger state of the market compared to last year.”