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International freight: prices on the rise again

06/06/2024 - François-Xavier Branthôme
The latest Drewry World Container Index (WCI) composite index has increased by 142% when compared with the same week last year and the outlook for the coming months is very uncertain.

China's container market is seeing a 2.5-fold increase in container leasing rates since early May, with average container prices in April and May up 88%, according to a Container xChange survey to his clients. In their analysis, 75% of container traders and leasing companies surveyed confirm a tighter market and report extremely high prices for 40-foot tall containers in China.
According to official data, average prices for 40 HC containers in China have increased by 17% in May compared to April. 40ft high cube cargo containers in Shanghai were priced at 2,158 in April, while these prices rose to 2,530 in May 2024 (as of May 22, 2024). These prices have risen steadily since November 2023, coinciding with the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

Prices for customers differ from official ones
Customers have very different perceptions of container prices. “Although the figures in the data show a much lower average container price, the market is experiencing much higher container prices in China, reaching USD 3,200 in week 21 for second-hand 40ft high cube containers. They were around 1,700 in March-April 2024. This is an 88% increase in the price of containers suitable for 40-foot HC cargo,” points out a Container xChange customer from China.

This development clearly reflects the impact of the Red Sea diversions on the second-hand container market in China, as anxiety to get containers out of China persistently increases month after month.
The Statista’s Index consists of 8 route-specific indices representing individual shipping routes and a composite index. All indices are reported in U.S. dollars per 40ft Container.

According to Statista, container freight rates oscillated dramatically between January 2023 and March 2024. Freight rates slumped to their lowest level on the 26th of October 2023, when the going rate for a 40-foot container was only 1,342 U.S. dollars. Since then, the global freight rate has gradually increased, hitting over 3,900 U.S. dollars in February 2024, the highest value on record, before decreasing slightly in March and April with a slight rise in May.

Container prices will also rise in the second half
In an environment of elevated market volatility and encouraging recovery in demand for global trade, container traders are preparing for the second half of 2024, where we expect a cyclical increase in demand
This combination of higher-than-expected cargo demand and the anticipation of future demand increases in the second half of 2024 is driving container trade prices in China,” said Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO of Container xChange. “Many container sellers are holding onto their inventory, anticipating greater demand pressure for shipping, especially as the second half of the year is typically a busier, more competitive and profitable season for the shipping industry.”

According to the information released by the Drewry Container Freight Portal as of week 21 (May 19-26, 2024), the composite index increased 16% to USD 4,072 per 40ft container this week and has increased by 142% when compared with the same week last year.
The latest Drewry World Container Index (WCI) composite index of USD 4,072 per 40ft container is 187% more than average 2019 (pre-pandemic) rates of USD 1,420.
The average composite index for the year-to-date is USD 3,280 per 40ft container, which is USD 559 higher than the 10-year average rate of USD 2,717 (which was inflated by the exceptional 2020-22 Covid period).

Freight rates from Shanghai to Rotterdam increased 20% or USD 827 to USD 4,999 per 40ft container. Similarly, rates from Shanghai to Los Angeles increased 18% or USD 801 to USD 5,277 per feu (forty-foot equivalent unit). Likewise, rates from Shanghai to Genoa climbed 15% or USD 718 to USD 5,494 per 40ft box. Correspondingly, rates from Shanghai to New York surged 13% or USD 746 to USD 6,463 per 40ft container.
Drewry, however, expects the spike in spot freight rates to lessen in the next few months.






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