MSC raises Asia-Europe container rates $350


Container shipping line MSC has announced a peak season surcharge (PSS) on the key Asia to Europe trade lane in a move that will be closely monitored by other major carriers currently holding back from further rate hikes.

Hapag-Lloyd is the only other line to have announced an Asia-Europe PSS, which is also for US$350 per teu and due to be implemented on 1 August.

The German carrier has gone further than MSC, however, by announcing an additional $250 general rate increase (GRI) for 15 August.

Some market observers have claimed that there would be no peak season surcharges this year given the underlying weak fundamentals both in the liner industry and in European consumer markets.

Last week’s Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI), a measure of spot rates for containers leaving China, recorded a $39 drop to an overall $1,422, although this masked much bigger falls on the Northern Europe and Mediterranean parts of the index, of $60 and $80 respectively.

The index had risen the previous week but that was on the back of seven consecutive falls. Members of the GCSFG group predicting another drop at the end of this week.

Any fundamental upward pressure on Asia-Europe prices is more likely to come from increased global demand for shipping capacity rather than an uptick in consumer demand but recent numbers tell a mixed story.

According to figures released this week by Container Trade Statistics overall global trade rose by 1.75% in May, compared with April, while exports from Asia grew 2.4% but at the European end, imports declined 0.7% month-on-month and 7.4% compared with May last year.

More recent data, however, suggests that although container throughput at the port of Shanghai increased 6.5% in June, compared to June 2011, it actually fell 3.5% compared with the previous month.

Carriers, along with all forms of company in the supply chain, will be betting, or hoping, that Europeans cast aside their worries and gearing up for a merry Christmas, but as is often the case in the container industry, the early indicators do not instill confidence.

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