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Container shipping rates: Still sky high but falling back to Earth

Its still very expensive to ship containers full of goods across the oceans. Spot rates globally are still more than quadruple pre-pandemic levels. But rates are now materially lower than they were a few months ago and falling by the week. The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) logged its 15th consecutive weekly loss on Friday.


In April, container shipping indicators were mixed. Some, like the SCFI, pointed lower. Others didnt. As of mid-May, indicators are much more aligned: pointing down.


The question ahead is whether peak season volumes, the end of China lockdowns and possible port labor unrest will cause spot rates to spike yet again in the second half, or whether falling import demand due to inflation and the end of stimulus, combined with unwinding port congestion, will pull ocean spot rates lower still perhaps even lower than annual contract rates.


Weakness in the Asia-West Coast trade is now showing up in the Freightos Baltic Daily Index (FBX). This mirrors the trend previously shown by the weekly Drewry World Container Index.

Between May 2 and May 11, the FBX Asia-West Coast assessment which includes premium charges sank 25% to $12,217 per FEU. It subsequently rose to $13,806 per FEU as of Friday. But even so, Fridays rate was down 33% from the lanes all-time high in late September.


The Drewry Shanghai-Los Angeles assessment, which doesnt include premiums, was down to $8,666 per FEU as of last week.

Thats 23% below levels in the third week of January and 30% below the indexs late-September record.



Spot rate in $ per FEU. Blue line = FBX, orange line = Drewry. Chart: FreightWaves SONAR


Asia-East Coast routes show the same directional trend: down. The FBX Asia-East Coast rate assessment fell 15% from $18,711 per TEU on May 2 to $15,982 per FEU on Friday. The index was down 28% from the record high in late September. 



Spot rate in $ per FEU. Blue line = FBX, green line = Drewry. Chart: FreightWaves SONAR


Shenzhen Xunlaitong specializes in shipping export from Shenzhen to Australia & New Zealand, Germany, Netherlands and more business