Cargo demand for Asian containerized imports has remained strong through the typically slower winter season and heading into the Lunar New Year holidays, according to container line data collected by the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA).
TSA lines said that the current environment has encouraged them to move ahead with revenue improvement measures which they say will help support continued carrier service investments while laying a sustainable pricing foundation for 2015-16 service contracts.
TSA carriers have reported consistently full sailings into the Pacific Northwest and via all-water Panama and Suez routes to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, as well as 95% utilization or better through California ports hardest hit by congestion.
“This suggests an overall strong market apart from recent cargo diversion trends, and is consistent with broader indicators of economic growth affecting the Asia-U.S. trade over 2014,” TSA said.
TSA reaffirmed support for a recommended USD 600 per 40-foot container (FEU) increase in rates across the board, effective February 9, 2015, and indicated that it will follow with a second USD 600 per FEU increase on March 9, with an April increase likely to follow, in an amount to be determined and announced later.
Member lines have also recommended upward adjustment of previously announced guideline minimum service contract rates to reflect increases of USD 300 per FEU for the U.S. East/Gulf Coast minimum, and USD 200 per FEU for the Chicago CY intermodal minimum.
Revised minimum contract rate levels are as follows, with proportionate levels for other equipment sizes:
U.S. West Coast
$2,000 per FEU from North Asia
$2,150 per FEU from Southeast Asia
$3,800 per FEU from North Asia
$3,950 per FEU from Southeast Asia
Inland to Chicago CY
$4,100 from North Asia
$4,250 from Southeast Asia
TSA lines added that intermodal rates to all other inland point CY destinations will be set at a minimum USD 1,000 per FEU above May 1, 2014 all-in levels.
Finally, TSA members stressed the need to optimize equipment flow and move cargo efficiently given recent operational challenges, and therefore have committed to avoid exemptions to, or reductions of, special equipment, service and other non-rate items in 2015-16 contracts.
“The transpacific freight market is maturing,” suggested TSA executive administrator Brian Conrad. “We should not continue to measure it against double-digit annual growth seen a decade ago, but rather in the context of a healthy, steadily improving trade.”
He added that the excess vessel supply reported globally is often overstated in the transpacific because it does not take into account infrastructure and other operational constraints.
Container lines are forecasting significant increases in shoreside and inland rail, truck and equipment management costs during 2015 and beyond as demand remains strong, as cargo and equipment imbalances widen, and as locomotive, truck and equipment shortages in key locations push up rates.