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China mulls enacting blank sailing ban to chill soaring freight rates

BEIJING is considering forbidding ocean carriers to cancel sailings from China as transpacific rates soared to an eight-year high, reported London's Loadstar

13 September 2020 - 19:00

BEIJING is considering forbidding ocean carriers to cancel sailings from China as transpacific rates soared to an eight-year high, reported London's Loadstar.

'This week, we have seen indications that rates have continued rising on routes from Shanghai to both US coasts, with east coast rates rising more than west coast rates,' said BIMCO's top analyst Peter Sand.



China's ministry of communications discussed refusing to allow carriers to increase spot rates from China to the US, and that cancelled sailings must be reinstated from October 12, said Loadstar.



The move was reported by Hong Kong's Zest Shipping Media, but not confirmed by the government. Zest noted that Cosco had already cancelled its September 15 rate increase, and other carriers are expected to follow suit.



Said Sea Intelligence chief Lars Jensen: 'This would have an unprecedented impact on the market and, more worryingly, potentially derail the carriers' ability to manage capacity in the face of extreme demand volatility.



'Placing a ban on blank sailings is essentially a non-issue right now, in a tight market, but it is highly likely we will see another downturn and if carriers are barred from managing capacity, this becomes problematic,' Mr Jensen said.



For seven weeks US west coast rates have increased. 'We now also see a strong impact on the CCFI [China Containerised Freight Index] contract rate index to the USWC, where contract rate levels have increased 12 per cent in the past four weeks, and 44 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic,' he said.



Last week, Flexport said rate increases were likely on the Asia-Europe route. 'The market is expected to be strong and full throughout September and demand will probably remain high until end of October. Carriers have announced blank sailings for post-Golden Week, so capacity will be tight,' said Flexport.



Said BIMCO's Mr Sand in a note: 'Spot rates on the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) jumped to its highest level since September 2012, reaching 1,263.26 August 28, and representing a 54.4 per cent increase from 24 April when the SCFI was at its lowest point this year.



'The Shanghai to US coasts routes are behind the biggest increase in freight rates. From late April, rates to the US West Coast are up 143.4 per cent to $3,639 per FEU, the highest level since at least 2010.



Spot rates into the US east coast were up 60.6 per cent from 24 April at $4,207 per FEU. Freight rates into Europe have also risen, although at a lower rate: up 36.7 per cent from April to $1,029 per TEU,' he said.


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