Trans-Pacific Spot Rate Leaps 20.5 Percent.
The spot rate for shipping from Hong Kong to Los Angeles leaped by 20.5 percent to more than $2,000 per 40-foot container over the past week, according to Drewry Shipping Consultants. The spot rate for shipping an FEU hit $2,012, compared to $1,669 in the week ended Jan. 25, according to Drewry. The Feb. 1 measure for the Drewry Container Rate Benchmark is 41 percent higher than the rate of $1,427 that prevailed a year ago.
The spike in prices over the last few weeks was fueled by the ?emergency rate charge? that was implemented on Jan. 15 by the 15 carrier members of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement. But the carriers have been able to increase spot rates by almost double the TSA"s guideline as shippers scramble to find scarce vessel space in advance of the one-week closure of Chinese factories for the Chinese New Year, which begins on Feb. 14.
Importers report that space has been so scarce in the past few weeks that their eastbound containers have been ?rolled,? or not loaded aboard the ships on which they had booked space. One carrier told a shipper that so many containers had piled up in Shanghai recently that failed to make it onto a vessel bound for the U.S. West Coast that it could have filled another entire vessel.
In January the TSA called for a mid-contract emergency rate increase as of Jan. 15 of $400 per FEU shipped from Asia to West Coast ports to tide its carrier members over until they can seek an $800 per FEU increase on containers shipped to West Coast ports in their 2010-2011 contracts. But spot rates in the most recent week jumped by $728 above the $1,284-per-FEU rate prevailing in the first week of January as shippers bid on scarce vessel space.
In an effort to reduce the glut of capacity that caused freight rates to plummet through much of last year, carriers have laid up about 10 percent of the container fleet, put other ships to work by slow-steaming many services and eliminated other services by establishing vessel-sharing agreements with competitors.