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Container spot rates from Asia to the US spiked this week, while carriers managed to halt the decline in short-term rates from Asia to North Europe.

However, spot rate on the transatlantic westbound have tumbled again, with average rates closing in on $1,500 per 40ft.

The latest analysis from John McCown for US container imports in June shows a year-on-year 18.6% reduction in volume, to 1,747,698 teu, at the top 10 US container ports – but that is an improvement on the 20.1% contraction in May and April’s 21.6% deficit.

The consultant expects August should see the last of the consecutive double-digit declines, as the comparisons start to reflect the start of the normalisation of the trade after the post-pandemic surge.

Moreover, some transpacific carriers are more optimistic of at least some increase in demand for the remainder of the peak season.

Announcing its preliminary second-quarter results yesterday, US domestic and transpacific carrier Matson said it expected “to experience a muted peak season”, claiming its service from China to the US west coast as “near full” during the peak season.

“We continue to expect trade dynamics to gradually improve for the remainder of the year as the transpacific market place transitions to a more normalised level of consumer demand and retail inventory stocking levels,” said Matson’s chairman and CEO, Matt Cox.

Xeneta’s XSI Asia to US west coast component leapt 23%, to $1,790 per 40ft this week, and its average rate on the route has now risen by 40% so far this month.

Nevertheless, a quantum of this week’s substantial increase could be due to the on-off strike situation at container ports on Canada’s west coast, which has already caused carriers to make a number of diversions, blank sailings and slide the departure of vessels from Asia into the following week.

And for the US east coast, there were also positive signs for carriers, with, for example, Drewry’s WCI Asia to US east coast reading up 7%, to $2,906 per 40ft.

Elsewhere, judicious capacity management by carriers from Asia to North Europe seems to have stabilised rates, with, for instance, the Freightos Baltic Index (FBX) North Europe reading flat at an average rate of $1,285 per 40ft. Activity in the market is being led by MSC, Evergreen, ONE and Maersk’s digital platform, Twill, according to The Loadstar’s shipper and forwarder contacts.

Meanwhile, spot rates on the Asia-Mediterranean trade are showing signs of weakness, due to the increase in capacity from vessel upgrades and new services, albeit that they still reflect a significant premium compared with North European rates.

This week’s WCI Asia-Mediterranean reading was down 2%, to $1,902 per 40ft.

Earlier this week, Maersk announced an increase in its Asia-Med FAK rates, effective next month, which would see shippers to some Mediterranean ports asked to pay $3,600 per 40ft.

On the transatlantic tradelane, the weekly rate erosion continues, bringing spot rates well below pre-pandemic levels. This week’s WCI average rate for North Europe to the US east coast fell another 7%, to $1,640 per 40ft, although rates are being touted at $1,300 or below in the market.

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