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Drop in demand, container rates prompt carriers to cancel sailings

SPOT rates on the Freightos Baltic Daily Index for China-North America west coast dropped eight per cent compared to the week ending on September 20, to US$1,327 per FEU

02 October 2019 - 19:00

SPOT rates on the Freightos Baltic Daily Index for China-North America west coast dropped eight per cent compared to the week ending on September 20, to US$1,327 per FEU. Since the start of 2019, container rates have declined 34 per cent, even though it is the middle of the peak season.

Spot rates in September fell 43 per cent year on year. This means rates remain on a downwards trajectory in September as the latest round of US tariff hikes fail to drive shippers to front load their imports.



Freightos chief marketing officer Eytan Buchman said the collapse in September prices is likely related to a more tepid response to the tariff increases, reported New York's FreightWaves.



The US Trade Representative initially set an October 1 start for a round of tariff increases on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. But President Donald Trump postponed the tariff hike until October 15. However, a tariff increase of 15 per cent on $188 billion worth of goods from China starting in December is expected to lead to a rebound in container shipping demand.



'Transpacific pricing remains at the mercy of the trade tariff war,' Mr Buchman said in a note. The most recent tariff change 'carries less clout than predecessors due to the short, five-week notice and the limited scope of goods affected.



'Given the weak peak season prices, carriers will be banking on post-Golden Week increases, as well as the December 15 tariff change, to shore up prices. With a significantly longer four-month notice, there's a better chance that this tariff increase will lead to increased shipping - and freight rates - come October and November.'



The slowdown in the transpacific trade volumes is forcing lines to blank more sailings. UK-based PR News Service said the Ocean Alliance plans to withdraw up to seven sailings between October 15 and December 2. Nine weekly sailings from Asia to the US west coast were already cancelled due to the slowdown during China's Golden Week holiday when factories remain closed.



The latest round of voided sailings includes two, 8,830-TEUer sailings for the Port of Long Beach at the end of November and start of December. Two weekly services into the Port of Los Angeles will also be cut in mid-December, one with 13,940 TEU capacity and another with 6,680 TEU.



A Seattle sailing of a 10,800-TEU capacity service will also be blanked in December. A 9,940 TEUer's service into Prince Rupert will be withdraw for a December sailing, as will a 5,580 TEUer bound for Vancouver.


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