THE Alliance container ship
ID 178521008 © Leung Cho Pan |

Demand remains strong on the Asia-North Europe trade, with full ships encouraging carriers to increase rates and introduce peak season surcharges (PSSs).

CMA CGM today announced an increase in its 40ft FAK rate of $100, to $2,300, effective 1 August, and has introduced a $200 per teu PSS for July, which it is yet to extend into August.

Today’s Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) recorded a 1.4% increase in the spot rate for North Europe, to $920 per teu, which is 36% higher than for the same week of last year.

Head of ocean freight EMEA at Flexport Martin Holst-Mikkelsen told The Loadstar today he saw “a similar demand trend” for the weeks ahead.

“Utilisation is high across the services out of China, but the space situation has improved somewhat and we are seeing space available up to a week out,” he said.

In response to green shoots of demand, THE Alliance members Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Yang Ming and HMM announced a weekly “extra loader” from Asia to North Europe, commencing with the sailing of the 6,350 teu Hyundai Tacoma stemmed for the week beginning 20 July.

The extra loader, or sweeper, service is designed to mitigate the impact of THEA’s continued suspension of its FE4 loop. The second and third sailings will be by the 10,000 teu Seaspan Zambezi and Seaspan Hudson, with the fourth sailing subject to inducement.

The service “is dependent on continued demand, given the still ongoing implications of Covid-19”, said a Hapag-Lloyd customer advisory.

Meanwhile, the SCFI commentary reported slot utilisation on ships sailing to the Mediterranean was “slightly lower” than the 95% achieved on North Europe voyages. In fact, the SCFI recorded a 2% fall in the spot rate this week, to $951 per teu, although the rate is still around 30% higher than a year ago.

As a consequence of the slight weakening on the tradelane, CMA CGM decided not to increase its FAK rate on the route from 1 August, maintaining its price for a 40ft at $2,200.

On the transpacific, despite carriers reinstating some capacity, reports to The Loadstar suggest ships are still running full from Asia.

“This demand surge is likely driven by many US businesses adding inventory that’s finally run down since their last orders in March or April,” said Freightos CMO Ethan Buchman.

“Some of this demand in what may be an early peak season could be motivated by the August expiration of certain tariff exemptions for hundreds of products from coffee filters to skateboards,” said Mr Buchman.

Carriers on the route which have already successfully pushed through three GRIs are asking shippers to pay yet another increase from mid-August.

Yesterday, Hapag-Lloyd announced a GRI of $1,200 per 40ft from Asia to North America from 15 August. The carrier’s FAK rate was already hiked by $1,500 per 40ft on 1 August, although it has cancelled its $600 PSS introduced this month.

There is, however, some evidence that the freight rate bull run on the transpacific, which has seen rates to the US west coast spike 70% higher than a year ago, may be coming to an end.

This week the SCFI recorded a 4.7% decline in the spot rate for the US west coast to $2,783 per 40ft, and for east coast ports a 4.7% drop on the week, to $3,297 per 40ft.

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