According to the latest crowd-sourced data from Xeneta, long-term rates for reefer containers on the key US West Coast to Far East route soared almost 60% in April.
The Oslo-based ocean and air freight benchmarking specialist today reveals a surge in rates of around USD 2000 per 40’ unit after the latest 12-month contracts came to a close. The average contracted rate recorded on 15 May stood at USD 5850 per container, while the average for new agreements running from Q2 2022 to the end of Q1 2023 was even higher, at USD 5945 per 40’ reefer.
Looking beyond volumes
“This is an almighty increase, pushing prices to an all-time high” comments Patrik Berglund, Xeneta CEO. “Contracts on this trade tend to be for year-long durations, running from the start of April to the end of the following March. With the escalating cost of energy prices, and the recent strength of the market for ocean freight in general, shippers would have expected some pain at the negotiating table. But this, for many, is going to be excruciating.”
He continues: “What’s unusual, is that this hike comes despite a poor start to the year in terms of export volumes. In the first quarter of 2022, the number of reefer containers exported from the US West Coast to the Far East was actually down by a whopping 37%. Yet still we see this jump. That illustrates there’s more at play than just supply and demand within this niche – it’s the macro picture that holds sway here.”
Shippers looking to beat the price rise may, Berglund points out, switch to cheaper three-month contracts (currently at around USD 2000 per container) or spot rates, which still appear to offer better value.
Current spot rates on the corridor are predominantly flat, at USD 5050 (14 May), equating to almost USD 900 lower than the average for long-term contracts from the past three months. In fact, Xeneta’s analysis shows that spot rates have never reached the current heights of long-term costs, creating opportunity for shippers limber enough to refine strategies ‘on the run’.
“That said,” Berglund comments, “most shippers on the long-term market will now be locked in paying high rates until it comes to renewing contracts for Q2 2023.”
Both long- and short-term pricing sits considerably higher for reefers than dry containers, with the former USD 4300 more expensive for long-term contracts, while spot prices command a USD 3 850 reefer premium as of 14 May. To put this into a broader market perspective, this time last year the difference between dry and reefer containers was USD 2500 on both the long- and short-term market.
“So, we see significant development in this crucial ocean freight subsector,” concludes Berglund. “All stakeholders in the value chain should stay tuned to ongoing intelligence to track how this changes going forwards. That’s the only way of ensuring they get the best value for their businesses, assets and cargoes.”