What happened in August?
Rate resilience amidst capacity management
The Indian Sub-continent
Peak season surcharges and operational challenges in India
The Middle East
Strategic developments to boost logistics evolution
Transatlantic trade sets off a volatile journey on Europe’s waters
US container logistics after the Panama Canal drought
Overview of container prices in August
Ocean carriers in the last two months succeeded in maintaining some gains in the transpacific and Asia-Europe routes, thereby controlling the decline in spot rates on the transatlantic route. In order to sustain the recent rate increases, carriers will now implement strategic capacity management tactics that have proven instrumental in sustaining the recent GRI achievements along the transpacific route. Increments of 3.5% and 9% in spot rates on the US West Coast and East Coast respectively are evidence of that.
Besides that, the transatlantic trade lane shows signs of stabilization, with spot rates reaching $1,600-$1,700 per FEU. These indications suggest a potential trajectory towards recovery and help the collective efforts being made right now to mitigate the volatility of rates. Until then, we noticed that the average prices of cargo-worthy 40ft containers in Asia have plummeted from $2,596 in September 2022 to $1,374 in September 2023, a 61.5% drop year-on-year.
The container market is grappling with challenges stemming from demand pressures and declining exports. For instance, the rates for trades between India and Europe have cooled over recent months, and container lines are facing difficulties in securing enough bookings to maintain vessel utilization. Carriers, therefore, are finding it challenging to implement rate hikes in this market environment. As stakeholders work to streamline operations and mitigate disruptions, a balanced perspective on pricing and operational strategies becomes paramount. Container xChange will continue to monitor these developments and provide insights into the evolving container industry landscape.
Until last month, the price of a cargo-worthy 40ft container on our platform was the highest in Chennai at $1,520 and the lowest in Chittagong at $1,320. On an average, the price in the top ports of India was $1,460.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, recent advancements in the logistics and maritime domains in the region have focused significantly on integrating the Middle East’s top ports with globally vital shipping routes. Notable accomplishments include robust cargo handling growth and strategic partnerships. Examples include: AD Ports Group, who exclusively develops and regulates Abu Dhabi’s ports and related infrastructure, collaborating with Semurg Invest LLP (Semurg) in Kazakhstan; the entry of a new carrier, the CStar Line headquartered in Dubai, adding a new dimension to maritime trade with Russia; Emirati multinational logistics company DP World’s reception of the Berlin Express at Jebel Ali Port, underscoring the commitment to sustainability and innovation in global shipping; And as we have reported several times, Jeddah Islamic Port’s increasing popularity and now connecting to global hubs like Busan, Singapore, Piraeus, and Barcelona.
August has been eventful for the Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) too as some of the world’s largest ocean carriers have included the port in their services. Mawani officially announced the inclusion of Jeddah Islamic Port into the Far East Asia, India, and the Mediterranean Sea (FIM) shipping service operated by South Korea’s premier carrier, HMM. Effective from 6 September 2023, this newly launched route will establish a crucial link between Jeddah and seventeen prominent global maritime hubs.
On the other hand, spot rates in the transatlantic used to be one of the world’s highest booms after the pandemic. Now, not only have they plummeted strongly but are in fact, below pre-pandemic levels. The Drewry World Container Index (WCI) spot-rate assessment for Rotterdam to New York was $5,061 per FEU in March this year, 2.5 times the rates in March 2019. However, by the end of August, rates on Rotterdam-New York had decreased to $1,585 per FEU. The drop in prices of containers across the top ports in Europe was quite evident on our platform as well. While the average price was $2,356 in August 2022, it was $950 in August 2023, an astonishing 85% drop.
Finally, the Panama Canal drought’s impact on US container logistics is palpable. The reduced capacity and elongated wait times have far-reaching repercussions for exporters and importers in the country. Of all Panama Canal traffic, a substantial 40% is comprised of US container traffic, representing a staggering $270 billion in trade. This holds significant implications for supply chains and consumer goods availability in the US. Experts predict that the current predicament might only be the tip of the iceberg. With the frequency of El Niño drying patterns on the rise, the Panama Canal’s ability to guarantee smooth transits for larger vessels is increasingly in question. El Niño’s effects tend to peak in December but its global reach takes time to unfold. In a forecast of concern, 2024 could be the year humanity surpasses the crucial 1.5 degrees Celsius climate threshold due to delayed El Niño effects. On our platform, the CAx score of the top ports in the US stayed significantly above the 0.5 mark, meaning more containers are entering these ports than those that are exiting. The domino effect of disrupted supply chains, extended transit times, and potential container shortages could place upward pressure on container prices. Companies might pass on these increased costs to consumers, leading to higher prices for goods transported by containers. This scenario emphasizes the broader economic implications of climate-induced disruptions on global trade and the cost of goods for consumers.
As for the prices, the average price of a cargo-worthy 40ft, most of them have stayed under $2,000 this quarter of the year.