Foreign trade in 2020 experienced a trend of first decline and then rise. Foreign trade business was slow in the first half of the year, but quickly picked up in the second half of the year and reached a hot state, exceeding market expectations. The throughput of various domestic ports has frequently hit new highs. The order was placed, but it was hard to find a single container. This situation lasted until the beginning of this year.
Due to the epidemic abroad, many routes have not yet resumed, and there are still not enough large ships. The congestion at the port has also affected the return flow of empty boxes, and the boxes are still not there. However, the freight rates, which have been skyrocketing, seem to be about to hit the ceiling. The recent news is obviously not about a big increase, but a slow increase. But it will take some time for freight rates to return to normal levels.
At least 37% of the world’s containers are delayed! Empty container shortage causes ocean shipping costs to triple!
According to analysis by consulting firm Ocean Insights, the container shipping industry has suffered unprecedented supply chain challenges, with freight delays reaching an all-time high, with at least 37% of global containers delayed. .
Freight delay statistics show that overheating has wreaked havoc on the market, with delays at major ports surging in December and delays at most major shipping lines, according to Ocean Insights. is increasing.
The latest data from Ocean Insights shows that from November to December last year, cargo volume did not decrease as historical seasonality did. On the contrary, cargo volume at most major ports increased.
This, in turn, forces further delays in cargo. According to analysis by Ocean Insights, more and more cargo is being stranded at the docks. Of the cargo carried on every shipping route in the world, A higher proportion of ships leave port than originally planned. This also directly led to the shortage of containers.
Container shortages and recovering consumer demand have pushed shipping prices soaring, with shipping costs on China-Europe routes tripling to a record high.
The cost of shipping goods from China to Europe has more than tripled in the past eight weeks to a record high as a shortage of empty containers caused by the epidemic has disrupted global trade.
Shipper and importer data show that the freight rate for a 40-foot container shipped from Asia to Northern Europe has risen from more than $2,000 in early November to more than $10,000 currently. Lars Jensen, CEO of consulting firm Sea-Intelligence, said: “This is a bottleneck problem…The main reason for driving up prices is customers competing for a limited number of containers.”
In the first half of 2020, global trade suddenly slowed down due to the global quarantine caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. Shipping companies canceled hundreds of liner voyages and thousands of empty containers were stranded in Europe and the United States. When Western demand for Asian-made goods rebounded in the second half of 2020, competition among shippers for available containers sent freight rates soaring.
John Butler, Chairman of the World Shipping Council (WSC), said: “Freight volumes have gone from a cliff to a record high, and now the terminals can effectively The volume of cargo handled has exceeded the original design limit.” He added that congestion at the port has led to higher prices, and shipping companies charge extra fees to compensate for the delay of ships.
Since November last year, the cost of shipping to Europe has increased dramatically as more containers from European routes have been diverted to the trans-Pacific route. In contrast, since China’s Ministry of Transport interviewed shipping companies in October last year to demand stable freight rates and increase shipping capacity, sea freight rates from China to the United States have basically stabilized.
Philip Edge, CEO of British freight forwarding company Edge Worldwide, said that cargo owners currently pay US$12,000 for each container, which is much higher than The freight rate in October is about US$2,000.
The British Household Appliances Manufacturers Association said in a statement that its members have reported increases in transport costs of up to 300% since the beginning of 2020, including “increases in transport costs greater than “Profits are retained on the goods, so these costs must be passed on to end users”. The company said: “Manufacturers do not expect to be able to absorb the significant increase in freight costs. ”
Are the skyrocketing shipping costs finally about to hit the ceiling?
According to The Loadstar report, from the data Looking at it, since January 15, the Shanghai Export Container Freight Index (SCFI) has only increased slightly by 0.5% to 2,885 points in the past week. Spot freight rates from Asia to the Mediterranean have remained basically unchanged at around US$4,296 per TEU.
There are also signs of cooling down in spot freight rates on the Asia-Europe route. After soaring by US$650 in the past two weeks, the quotation on the Nordic route has now fallen slightly by US$39 to US$4,413 per TEU. For the Asia-US route, He said that since relevant government departments intervened in freight control in September 2020, SCFI’s performance has been stable, and spot prices have been rising slowly for two weeks.
However, compared with the same period in 2020, It is said that SCFI has risen 1.9 times. Since the beginning of 2021, the SCFI index has risen 5% in just two weeks.$90. Compared with the same period in 2019, the SCFI index quoted per TEU in Northern Europe was only US$1,010 and in the Mediterranean region was US$1,180.
Nowadays, container freight rates in Asia and Europe have increased by about four times. Moreover, the SCFI index does not take into account the transportation costs incurred by transport operators to safely deliver goods to the recipient at the terminal. Once included in the calculation, freight costs will further increase a lot.
Why are rumors of cooling suddenly emerging in the container shipping market that still seems to be in full swing? In fact, due to the sharp increase in freight costs for exporting from China, some customers said that their products were no longer favored by the market and had to be removed from the shelves.
The increasingly high and astonishing quotations have made it difficult for customers to bear. Therefore, some transport operators said that their customers have decided to postpone the fight for container ship space because customers are not willing to bear the additional transportation burden. Costs, coupled with the uncertainty caused by extended lockdown measures in Europe, customers are also worried that inventories are currently too high.
However, for the majority of cargo owners and freight forwarders, the reality is far from optimistic. According to estimates by Drewry and Clarksons, the growth rate of shipping demand in 2021 will be greater than the growth rate of supply; Alphaliner estimates that the recovery of the shipping market in 2021 will be relatively moderate due to the rebound in demand in the second half of 2020. A large amount of demand is still “waiting for food”, and it is difficult for the hot freight prices to fall significantly in the short term.
Although freight rates are expected to drop after the Chinese New Year in mid-February, Asia-Europe shipping should still maintain a high freight rate of around US$6,000 per 40-foot container.
Transpacific container shipping rates fell slightly in the last week of 2020 and were lower than the previous week. However, some shipping companies still announced that starting from 2021, per 40-foot container The basic freight rate will be increased by US$1,000, and other operators will follow suit after mid-January.
Some European shippers stated that if carriers require higher freight prices, they should improve service quality, including reducing the movement of goods between different ports and improving empty container availability. Improve on-time performance and scheduling reliability.
The current situation is that the punctuality rate of major ports in Europe, America and Asia has dropped to historical lows, port congestion is serious, and the shortage of empty containers cannot be solved in the short term. Resolved, the global shipping industry will still struggle to move forward in chaos.