What happened in January?
Overview of container prices in January
Asia: Product shortages anticipated amidst Chinese New Year and Red Sea crisis
Chinese New Year (CNY), also known as Lunar New Year, is celebrated in various East Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and North and South Korea. In 2024, Chinese New Year will take place between February 10th and 17th, with celebrations lasting seven days. In anticipation of the Lunar New Year, many companies hasten their shipping requirements, causing capacity bottlenecks in the logistics chain. The surge in demand, particularly for exports from China, leads to reduced container availability, transport delays, and heightened shipping costs. This year, the situation is anticipated to be more tense than usual due to Red Sea challenges.
If the Red Sea disruption persists, product shortages may emerge in April and May. Only higher-end retailers capable of shifting to air freight might be an exception to mitigating potential shortages. The attacks in the Red Sea led some shippers to increase the ocean freight rates to $10,000 from China to Europe trade routes. However, contrary to projections, ocean carriers are now reducing freight rates from China to the US West Coast.
Freight rates from China/East Asia to the US East Coast saw a sharp rise from $2,357 in November 2023 to $5,094 in January 2024—making a 116% increase. However, the freight rates from China/East Asia to the US West Coast witnessed an 86% increase from $1,690 in November 2023 to $2,966 in January 2024.
The ISC and ME: Ripple effect of Red Sea attacks: Price shifts across industries from clothing to coffee
The ongoing attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea by the Houthi militia in Yemen are causing a ripple effect, resulting in heightened freight costs and extended delivery times. Even minor delays can trigger a domino effect on production schedules. The global supply chain operates on a “just in time” basis, where each component arrives precisely when it’s needed for the production line. Any disruption affects every stage of the manufacturing process, leading to widespread delays.
While the current problem may appear limited to shipping companies, experts caution that consumers worldwide should brace themselves for market shifts in the coming weeks. This could manifest as price hikes, “shrinkflation”, where the size of a product decreases while maintaining the same price, or even shortages in the availability of everyday goods.
The security threats posed by Houthi militia attacks in the Red Sea may result in a substantial dent of around $30 billion in India’s total exports for the current fiscal year.
In January 2023, 15,538 TEUs were transported between the Middle East and the US. The number plummeted to just 1,421 TEUs in January 2024, indicating a decrease in trade between the two countries.
Europe: Maritime collaboration: Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd form ‘Gemini Cooperation’
On January 17, 2024, leading container vessel carriers Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk announced their strategic collaboration, the Gemini Cooperation, set to commence in February 2025. Together, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd currently operate vessels with a capacity of 6.1 million TEUs, which is 22% of global container capacity. “The cooperation comprises around 290 vessels with a combined capacity of 3.4 million containers (TEU); Maersk will deploy 60% and Hapag-Lloyd 40%,” announced Maersk in an official press release.
Major liner companies have maintained their push on European container freight rates amid ongoing attacks on shipping through the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The freight rates from China and East Asia to North Europe have seen a sharp rise since October 2023. The freight rates on this route were $4,757 on the second week of January 2024, a whopping 77% rise from $1,056 in October 2023.
The US: Potential $700 million loss looms as Panama Canal traffic sees sharp drop
A severe drought that began last year compelled authorities to reduce ship crossings in the Panama Canal, a crucial global trade route. Canal administrators now project losses between $500 million and $700 million in 2024, a significant increase from the previous estimate of $200 million.
Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez announced on January 17 that more “efficient” water management and a jump in rainfall in November have enabled them to ensure that water levels are high enough for 24 ships to pass daily until the end of April, the start of the next rainy season.
A.P. Moller-Maersk has revealed plans to utilize freight railroads as an alternative route to navigate the drought-affected Panama Canal. Due to reduced water levels limiting large ship passages, the shipping container giant announced on January 12 that its Oceania-Americas (OC1) service, connecting Australia and New Zealand with ports in Philadelphia and Charleston, South Carolina, will now utilize the Panama Canal Railway.
The average price of a cargo-worthy 40ft container in the US was $2,454 in January 2023, on our platform. In January 2024, the same has decreased to $1,510, marking a 38.46% drop.
Where does the data for our monthly reports come from?
For our monthly ‘Where are all the containers’ reports, we leverage the data from the transactions taking place on our xChange marketplace + third-party analyses and industry news to bring you:
Insights gives you real-time market prices in 60 locations. It helps define the best locations and time trading containers, gives you price changes, and analysis of the current trends.
The CAx is a tool for monitoring the import and export moves of full containers. In this report, we show CAx trends for 40 DC (of which 55% are 40 HC; the most popular container for freight use).
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