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Soaring container ship freight rates threaten the global economic outlook?

Entering 2021, the imbalance between supply and demand in the container shipping market has still not been resolved, and the persistently high container shipping rate is becoming a major threat to the global economic outlook this year.

The shortage of containers is difficult to alleviate, and the freight rates of various routes remain high

Affected by the epidemic and the peak shipments before the Spring Festival, the volume of goods on the European and North American routes remained high, the port congestion, and the lack of containers made container turnover difficult, and the imbalance of supply and demand in the container shipping market has not been effectively alleviated. The freight rates of all routes around the world remain high.

Recently, due to the epidemic situation, the port congestion has caused the average space utilization of container ships from Shanghai Port to Europe to continue to be fully loaded. Most ships maintain their original freight rates, and only the spot market booking prices have dropped slightly. According to statistics from the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, the freight rate (sea freight and ocean freight surcharges) for exports from Shanghai to the European basic port market on January 15 was 4,413 USD/TEU, down 0.9% from the previous period; the freight rate for Shanghai exports to the Mediterranean basic port market (sea freight) And shipping surcharge) is 4296 US dollars/TEU, the same as the previous period.

There are still bottlenecks in container transportation on the North American route. The average space utilization rate of ships from Shanghai Port to East and West US routes is nearly full. The freight rates of the routes are stable, and the spot market booking prices have increased slightly. On January 15th, the freight rates (sea freight and ocean freight surcharges) for Shanghai exports to the basic ports of the West and East US ports were 4,054 US dollars/FEU and 4,800 US dollars/FEU, respectively. The West US routes rose slightly by 0.9% and the US East routes rose 1.1%. .

The South American epidemic is severe, the import demand is large, and the transportation demand is high. Consolidation companies are increasing overtime shipping schedules to ease the shortage of capacity. The average space utilization of ships on the Shanghai Port to South America route is over 95%, and most of the flights are full. Some shipping companies have increased the booking price, and the spot market freight rate has risen slightly. On January 15, the freight rate (sea freight and ocean freight surcharges) for exports from Shanghai to the basic port market in South America was 8907 USD/TEU, up 3.2% from the previous period.

In Asia, the two major port congestion problems in Singapore and Malaysia, Port Klang are the most serious. Many European or Middle Eastern routes skipped these two ports and did not call. Therefore, freight forwarders had to ship customers to Singapore or Port Klang. The cargoes of South Korea will be imported and exported from the neighboring Johor Port. It is estimated that Singapore, Port Klang and Ho Chi Minh City may rise before the Spring Festival holiday on the Southeast Asian route.

At present, there is no news about the increase of freight rates on the routes of Europe and Southeast Asia. However, because of the obvious shortage of space, the purchase fee for the US route remains high. The purchase fee for the US Eastern route was increased to US$4,000/FEU in mid-January, but so far there has been a purchase fee of US$6000/FEU. The purchase fee has reached US$2500. In addition, hundreds of dockers have been diagnosed in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach recently. The multi-billion dollar logistics economy of the two ports may be severely slowed down. The situation is even more unoptimistic.

Consolidation costs have risen several times, and the global economy may be profoundly affected

Most people in the industry believe that the problem of imbalance between supply and demand in the container shipping market will continue at least until the first quarter of this year. Nerijus Poskus, deputy general manager of Flexport, a San Francisco freight and customs brokerage company, estimates that the current global container gap has reached 500,000, which is almost equivalent to the world’s 25 largest vessels. Compared with last year, the loading capacity of 20,000 boxes of ships may increase the pressure on shipping costs this year.

Experts pointed out that it is expected that a large number of empty containers in Europe and the United States will be shipped back one to three months after the Spring Festival in April and May. The shortage of containers is expected to be alleviated, but it is still difficult to say how. In the follow-up, the impact of the lack of containers can be judged by three major signals: retail inventory, global ship on-time rate, and the latest container ship supply and demand. If the retail inventory level remains at a low level, it indicates that the demand is still strong; if the ship on-time rate starts to rise from a low point, it means that the port congestion has been alleviated.

According to Alphaliner’s latest estimates in December last year, the global container loading and unloading volume this year has increased by 3.5% higher than last year; the capacity supply has increased by 3.9% annually, and the gap between supply and demand has narrowed. This shows the oversupply of the container shipping market in the past decade. The phenomenon has been reversed. Although this year seems to be a year of healthy supply and demand, if the epidemic breaks out again, the market will be full of uncertainties.

Strange phenomena are frequent under the epidemic. Although the global economy is still severely hit by the epidemic, the container shipping industry has experienced the most severe price increase in history, and the shortage of supply has intensified the upward trend of container freight rates. Comprehensive data shows that the current freight rates of popular routes such as the European and American routes have increased by several times. The Australian routes have increased substantially by nearly 9 times, and the European routes have also soared by more than 5 times, even for Southeast Asian routes. Prices have also climbed, and have increased more than four times since the end of last year.

Some manufacturers frankly said that they can no longer afford the current level of freight rates, and it is even more difficult to pass on the additional costs caused by the soaring freight rates to customers. The goods that were supposed to be delivered in the fourth quarter of last year have not yet been able to ship due to lack of containers and no flags, but the warehouses can no longer accommodate the piles of goods. Some European countries even bid 8,000 euros (about 63,000 yuan). No usable container can be found. This is a situation that has not been seen in the past few decades.

Obviously, the soaring freight rate caused by the imbalance of supply and demand has affected the operation level from the supply chain level. Enterprises are forced to reduce production or increase inventory pressure, which affects cash flow, and even affects the entire industry chain because of the reduction in orders. The demand side. Consumers and companies have to bear the increased cost of shipping freight, which may have a longer impact on the economy than the problem of "missing containers".