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There was a further slippage this week in container spot rates for the European components of the Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI).

Of concern for Asia-Europe ocean carriers is that rates have so far failed to improve in the first month of the traditional peak season – for North Europe, they have now slumped by over 30% since the beginning of the year.

The SCFI recorded North Europe rates down another 1.7%, to $676 per teu, some 24% below the level of 12 months ago.

Mediterranean rates also continued their decline, the SCFI recording another 1.1% fall, to $697 per teu.

The radical steps taken by the Ocean and THE alliances to remove over 130,000 teu of Asia-North Europe headhaul capacity this month and next, to ‘stop the rot’, remains to have any impact on the market.

One forwarder The Loadstar spoke to this week said customers were “calling their bluff” and refusing to accept any increases.

“Maersk and MSC have not blanked any sailings so far and they are both quoting rates below CMA CGM and the others,” he said.

Indeed, the FAK rates announced by Maersk last week, valid from 15 July until the end of the month, are $100 per 40ft below the $2,000 set by the French carrier.

However, UK-based forwarder Westbound Logistics has warned its customers that the tradelane is heading for a period of container rolling and refused and/or locked-out bookings due to the cancelled voyages.

It said: “The strain will be put on carriers’ vessels, which then maximises the payload for the weeks they are loading.”

Despite the offer of cheaper rates in the market, Westbound said it had decided to stick with its VIP rates from its approved carriers, “where goods actually ship, and arrive on time without any hassle or extra costs”.

On the transpacific tradelane, carriers are enjoying a more normal peak season, with GRI increases generally holding well and the market expecting further hikes this month and next.

The SCFI recorded a slight increase in spot rates from Asia to the US west coast to $1,659 per 40ft, while for east coast ports there was a jump on the SCFI of 3.6%, to $2,864 per 40ft.

The healthy state of the US east coast tradelane has prompted Cosco, Maersk and MSC to add extra loaders in July, according to Alphaliner. This compensates for the removal of 34,250 teu of capacity by the Ocean Alliance, presumably a decision taken when forward bookings were not so encouraging.

The consultant said the launch of the new 2M/Zim string would add some 4,500 teu of weekly capacity to the Asia-US east and Gulf coast route, equivalent to 7% of current capacity.

Meanwhile, escalating tension in the Persian Gulf, through which over 20% of the world’s oil is exported, has resulted in a 20% surge in bunker costs this week, to around $416 per tonne for heavy fuel oil.

George Griffiths, editor, global container freight market at S&P Global Platts, told The Loadstar there had been “significant volatility” in bunker prices this week, which he attributed to the increased tension in the Middle East.

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