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CONTAINER RATES ALERT: Carriers stand strong with hike in long-term contracted rates

Katherine Barrios
Oct 28, 2020

October 29, 2020 -- Oslo, Norway --   According to the latest Xeneta Shipping Index (XSI®) Public Indices report, in October leading carriers succeeded in not just protecting their all important long-term contracted rates but boosting them. October sees rates jump by 1.3% compared to September, leaving them up 1.2% year-on-year.

 

It’s enough to have industry observers scratching their heads in wonder. In the face of continued economic uncertainty, a delicate geopolitical situation, and a crippling global pandemic – all with obvious widespread international trade implications – container shipping companies are seemingly managing an impossible balancing act.

 

The Xeneta Shipping Index (XSI) has revealed slight dips in rates over the course of the pandemic, but nothing in keeping with the wider market turmoil. As it stands, long-term contracted rates are down just 0.6% since the end of 2019, while spot rates on key routes (such as Far East-North Europe) remain at all-time highs.

Seller’s Market

“You have to take your hat off to the strategists at the leading carriers,” comments Xeneta CEO Patrik Berglund. “They’ve managed capacity with real expertise, withdrawing tonnage when necessary, maintaining contracted rates and pushing shippers onto the spot market where they can gain a better yield. Tenders have become increasingly difficult for shippers in what really is a ‘seller’s market’ and, as we enter a key trading period, you have to question whether there’s any relief in sight. As RFQ season settles in shippers, need to expect further rate increases in the contract market over the next months. The end of YoY savings is not at all far-fetched.

“Obviously, as we have seen time after time in this dynamic segment, things can change almost overnight - but for now carriers are performing beyond expectations. In fact, Maersk has changed its EBITDA forecast for the year from USD 6-7bn to USD 7.5-8bn, while Japan’s top three carriers have also raised guidance for the year. We’ve now seen CMA CGM taking the decision to announce a peak season surcharge of USD 150 from 1 November on the Far East -North Europe route, showing their confidence. 

 

Charting Complexity 

XSI® is based on crowd-sourced data from leading shippers, utilizing over 200 million data points, with more than 160,000 port-to-port pairings. In addition to providing ‘big picture’ analysis it also delivers in-depth insights and analytics into key regional developments. In October European imports registered their first increase since July, up by 0.8%, while exports registered their fifth consecutive monthly decline, down by 1.1%. The benchmarks are now down 0.8% and up 1.5% respectively year-on-year. 

Far East imports and exports showed dramatic fluctuations, with the import index down 3.2% (down 0.6% year-on-year) as exports jumped by 3.5% (up an impressive 5% since October 2019). The US benchmarks were more stable, with imports creeping up by 0.5% and exports rising by 0.6%. However, both figures disguise a year-on-year decline, imports by 0.9% and exports by a significant 6.3%. 

Berglund says the already complex array of factors at play in the industry may be set to grow even more opaque. 

 

Continual Evolution 

“Away from the broader economic and pandemic picture we can also see change within the industry itself,” he notes. “The traditional forwarder-carrier relationship is now being tested by Maersk’s decision to offer an improved, integrated service. This essentially sees them competing for the same customer base as forwarders. As a result, DB Schenker has already decided to move volume away from the Danish line due to conflict of interest. 

“Maersk is not alone in looking to gain closer ties to shippers, with other carriers also developing integrated digital platforms. On the subject of digital, e-commerce sales are also increasing and this offers new opportunity for forward thinking carriers. For example, Zim and Alibaba.com have just announced a strategic cooperation that will see the Chinese e-commerce giant purchase sea freight with the Israeli line. This kind of partnership offers improved logistics chains for e-tailers and increased share for carriers. 

“How will these evolving relationships – between carrier, shipper and forwarder – impact upon rates? It’ll be intriguing to see how this plays out.” 

Companies participating in Oslo-based Xeneta’s crowd-sourced ocean and air freight rate benchmarking and market analytics platform include names such as ABB, Electrolux, Continental, Unilever, Lenovo, Nestle, L’Oréal, Thyssenkrupp, Volvo Group and John Deere amongst others.

 

To get the full XSI® Public Indices report, please visit: https://www.xeneta.com/xsi-public-indices

 

About Xeneta

Xeneta is the leading ocean freight rate benchmarking and market intelligence platform transforming the shipping and logistics industry. Xeneta’s powerful reporting and analytics platform provides liner-shipping stakeholders the data they need to understand current and historical market behaviour – reporting live on market average and low/high movements for both short and long-term contracts. Xeneta’s data is comprised of over 220 million contracted container and air freight rates and covers over 160,000 global trade routes. Xeneta is a privately held company with headquarters in Oslo, Norway and regional offices in New York and Hamburg. To learn more, please visit www.xeneta.com

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