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UNCTAD, the UN’s trade and development body, yesterday warned that surging freight rates in container shipping had implications for policymakers. Far from the expected slump in shipping when Covid hit, as we all know, in fact demand has been high – and so are rates. This four-page document notes the shortage of ships and boxes and the surge in rates. It explains the problems with routes over the past year, and why shortages have occurred. Noting that “no contingency plans were in place”, UNCTAD urges policymakers to consider three recommendations: to support ambitious trade and transport facilitation reforms; promote track and trace; and – perhaps most crucially for the industry, warns that the now-chronically high rates must come under scrutiny, over anti-competitive concerns.

“It is important to ensure that national competition authorities can monitor freight rates and market behaviour … It remains important for policymakers to continue to strengthen national competition authorities in the area of maritime transport and ensure that they are prepared to provide the requisite regulatory oversight.”

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