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Transpacific ocean carriers are gambling on a good peak season and announcing some hefty rate increases – but they are being obliged to underpin these by voiding some headhaul voyages.

Hapag-Lloyd notified its eastbound transpacific customers yesterday of a $700 per 40ft  general rate increase (GRI) effective 1 August to follow the big price hikes expected on the route next week.

Online digital booking platform Freightos said: “All signs are pointing to a big transpacific GRI coming up.”

“Blank sailings and advance orders, due to trade tariff threats, both support an increase,” said Freightos in its FBX container freight price update, noting that carriers were already advising forwarders of GRIs “in the $300-$400 range, or higher”.

The Loadstar reported last week that CMA CGM subsidiary APL had announced a PSS (peak season surcharge) from Asia to the US and Canada of $1,000 per 40ft from 15 July, as carriers were rolling out blank-sailing programmes to mitigate an “expected low seasonal demand”.

Alphaliner said container spot rates from Asia to the US west coast had fallen by 47% from their peak in November, despite efforts by carriers to manage capacity growth on the route.

“Although July usually marks the start of the transpacific summer peak season, this year has proved exceptional, with the ongoing Sino-US trade war pulling down transpacific cargo volumes from China,” said the consultant.

The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) recorded a further 2.4% decline in spot rates to the US west coast last week, to $1,382 per 40ft, which is some 10% below the level in the same week a year ago.

According to Alphaliner data, the Ocean Alliance is leading the way in culling capacity by withdrawing three Asia-US west coast sailings next month, removing over 29,000 teu of capacity from the market.

Meanwhile, US port statistics for May, compiled by New York consultant Blue Alpha Capital, will not do much to boost transpacific carriers’ confidence. Imports into the 10 largest ports increased by a disappointingly year-on-year low of 0.5% last month, to 1.7m teu.

This throughput figure was skewed by 7.9% growth for the US east and Gulf ports, but US west coast gateways suffered a cumulative 5.3% decline.

The consultant’s founder, John D McCown, said: “With no scheduled tariff increases when the containers were loaded, there was less incentive to front-load shipments and we’re beginning to see the impact of tariffs. I anticipate weaker comparisons in June, from both tariffs and the impact of swollen mainland inventories being worked down.”

Mr McCown added that the situation would be “exacerbated if they [tariffs] are expanded to cover all imports from China”.

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  • Gary Ferrulli

    June 26, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Gamble is what? they will make money??