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Freight rates at record lows

Freight rates at record lows
Container lines could see a staggering $68bn wiped off their global revenues this year if freight rates stay around today?s record lows.

Container lines could see a staggering $68bn wiped off their global revenues this year if freight rates stay around today"s record lows.

Container lines could see a staggering $68bn wiped off their global revenues this year if freight rates stay around today"s record lows.

That represents almost a third of industry income in 2008 and follows a plunge in freight rates during the first two weeks of January.

The full extent of the industry"s worst-ever downturn is contained in the latest Drewry Container Freight Rate Insight report that says spot container freight rates are almost certainly at their cheapest level ever.

The 42% collapse in all-in rates from South China to Europe since November has been so shocking that Drewry is asking whether the market has veered out of control.

After sliding throughout 2008, Drewry"s global all-in freight rate index suddenly plummeted to $1,681 per 40 ft box in January from $2,098 in November, a drop of over $400 per feu or 20% in just two months. A year earlier, the figure had stood at $2,629.

The index covering European container imports was down by a colossal 69% year-on-year to stand at just $1,232 per feu last month, compared with $3,935 just 12 months earlier, driven by the dramatic falls in Asia to Europe spot rates.

According to Drewry figures that are based on forwarders" representative all-in prices, European inbound rates dropped by an unprecedented 42% in just two months to January.

A year earlier, they were three times higher at $3,935, including terminal and bunker surcharges.

On the Pacific, Drewry"s Hong Kong-Los Angeles container rate benchmark, that had shown relatively little movement throughout 2008, plunged 15.6% in the first week of 2009 compared with the final week of December to $1,491 per feu, and then suffered another sharp downwards lurch last week to just $1,214.

That leaves spot rates on the eastbound transpacific trades 32% lower than they were a year earlier when the price stood at $1,785.

Ocean carriers could lose as much as $68bn in revenue

Based on global container traffic of 152m teu last year, these rates suggest that ocean carriers could lose as much as $68bn in revenue if these levels hold for the next 12 months.

That compares with revenue of 2008 in $220bn.

Drewry qualifies its forecast with a reminder that the real sums ?are far more complicated,? but nevertheless observes that the calculation ?does give an impression of how desperate the liner industry"s revenue shortfall has become.?

The firm goes on to note that rate decreases were seen for imports and exports to and from both the US and Europe.

In the trades from Asia to the UK, all-in spot rates averaged about $1,100 per 40 ft container in January, of which the base rate and bunker element accounted for only about a third.

A new report on the container trades from Maritime Strategies International says that a significant feature of the current downturn is the fact that western Europe and North America are less important as generators of container traffic than they were in the last industry crisis in 2001.

China is set to further increase its share of the global total, building on 26.3% of world lifts it captured last year, compared with 17.2% in 2001.

?A broad collection of fast-growing regions will act as the secondary locomotive for overall trade,? the report states, with the combined share of total world lifts from south and south-east Asia, Latin America and the Middle East set to grow by 8.7% in 2009 and 10.3% in 2010.

?Some of this growth will translate into imports from China, but also increasingly into exports on the return leg, raising backhaul demand,? the report predicts.


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