Hapag-Lloyd
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The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) has punched through the 1,000 mark for the second time this month, 21% higher than the same week a year ago.

The SCFI published early this week, due to today’s national holiday in China, but despite the shorter time frame the container spot rate index still recorded more gains across the major east-west tradelanes.

Despite the fact that the world remains gripped by a deadly pandemic and cargo volumes remain significantly below budget, ocean carriers have been able to successfully underpin freight rates – and even drive them up – by judicious capacity management.

The European components of the SCFI saw spot rates from Asia to the Mediterranean rise another 2% to $968 per teu, with rates on the tradelane now a third higher than 12 months ago.

Ships sailing for North Europe and Mediterranean ports from China this week were reported to be “full”. Spot rates for North Europe, as recorded by the SCFI, edged up slightly this week, by 0.5%, to $890 per teu, some 27% higher than a year ago.

Although both the 2M and THE alliances are continuing their blanking strategy of each suspending an Asia-North Europe loop to October, THEA is adding ports to its remaining loops and upgrading their capacity, including the deployment of HMM’s new 24,000 teu ULCVs.

Meanwhile, 2M partners Maersk and MSC loaded in China the first of their inducement, sweeper/Griffin offering, in order to compensate for the suspension of the AE2/Swan loop, with the sailing of the 14,036 teu MSC Taranto. The second sailing of the 2M’s inducement loop is expected to be performed by the 13,568 teu Maersk Evora in early July.

Ocean Alliance members CMA CGM, Cosco, OOCL and Evergreen have so far not decided to suspend an entire Asia-North Europe loop, opting in contrast for ad hoc blankings. The French carrier is also the first to announce a PSS (peak season surcharge) on the route, proposing a $200 per teu PSS from 1 July.

Meanwhile, on the transpacific, the Asia-US spot rate components of the SCFI ticked up by 0.9% to the US west coast, to $2,692 per 40ft, while for east coast ports there was a slight increase of 0.5% to $3,303 per 40ft. Rates on the trade are an impressive 57% higher for the US west coast than a year ago and up by 18% for east coast ports.

A demand surge has seen carriers reinstate several blanked sailings on the trade to take full advantage of the hike in rates. And it could also lead to a new round of general rate increases (GRIs) on the trade, if other carriers follow Hapag-Lloyd’s lead. The carrier this week announced a $1,500 per 40ft GRI on the eastbound transpacific, effective 1 August.

“This surprise mini-surge may have some carriers hopeful for a potentially salvageable peak season,” said Freightos CMO Eytan Buchman.

Indeed, according to eeSea data, the transpac carriers have to date cancelled only 16, or 6%, of their advertised 252 sailings for July and just nine, or 4%, of the scheduled 241 voyages in August.

However, the demand boost could be short-term, according to port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka, who told a MarineTraffic webinar this week there would be “permanent volume losses” at the port as a consequence of the trade war with China.

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