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Trans-Pacific container rates down for first time in year

Spot rates on a key trans-Pacific container route fell 2.4 percent last week from a year earlier - the first year-to-year drop since January 2010, Drewry Shipping Consultants reported.

Trans-Pacific container rates down for first time in year
19 February 2011 - 00:56

Spot rates on a key trans-Pacific container route fell 2.4 percent last week from a year earlier - the first year-to-year drop since January 2010, Drewry Shipping Consultants reported.

Drewry's weekly container benchmark showed non-vessel-operating common carriers reported paying spot rates averaging $1,964 per 40-foot-equivalent unit from Hong Kong to Los Angeles during the week ending Feb. 14. That was down from $2,012 a year earlier.

The drop in the spot index comes as trans-Pacific shippers and carriers are starting annual negotiations for service contracts that expire in May. Carriers have said they expect vessel space to be tight despite added capacity that cargo interests hope will restrain rates.

The Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, representing most eastbound carriers, said this month its members expect volume to rise 7 to 8 percent this year, close to a projected 8.8 percent increase in capacity. This week, Alphaliner forecast 14 percent growth in trans-Pacific capacity during 2011.

The latest Drewry spot index was down 5.7 percent from its previous reading of $2,081 on Jan. 31. The index wasn't published Feb. 7 because of the Lunar New Year in China.

The year-to-year decline in the spot index was the first since Jan. 18, 2010. Before that date, the weekly index had shown year-to-year declines every week since Dec. 22, 2008.

Whether the latest index signals a turning point is unclear. Last year the index's spot rates softened in March, though they remained above 2009's depressed levels, before rising rapidly as volume rose during the annual peak season for imports.

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