Shipping rates rocketing again, with contract talks ‘a game of musical chairs’

Container spot rates are beginning to head upwards again across all trades from already elevated levels, as carriers reduce their commitment to contract volumes in favors of much higher FAK rates.

The Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) China-North Europe component edged up to $7,316 per 40ft this week, and market reports to The Loadstar suggest rates on the route are set to soar again next week, returning to their mid-February peak of $8,430, and possibly higher.

“Releasing the Ever Given mitigated the crisis, but in many ways the damage was already done,” said Freightos research lead Judah Levine. “Two weeks post-Suez blockage, global trade is beginning to feel the slow-moving hit on both capacity and pricing fronts.”

Indeed, one UK-based NVOCC told The Loadstar this week his carrier had not only doubled his contract rate from Asia, but had also cut his MQC (minimum quantity commitment) by 75%.

The FBX recorded spot rates from Asia to the US west coast this week at $4,986 per 40ft, a slight drop on the previous week, but the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) today recorded a 13% uplift in its spot, suggesting some big increases coming down the pipeline.

And increases are already working through for the US east coast, with the FBX recording a 3.5% increase in its spot this week, to $6,208 per 40ft.

“Contract rates are double last year, premium rates are up and bookings are backed up for three to four weeks,” said Mr Monroe. “This is like a game of musical chairs and the last [BCO] to the signing party may be left standing [with no MQC],” said the consultant.