Premium service fees required by container shipping lines for North Asia-to-North America spot cargoes were rangebound in the week to July 9 after increasing sharply at the start of July as shipowners reassessed supply and demand conditions.
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Premium rates for the China-to-US West Coast trade lane were mostly in the $10,000-12,000/FEU range to guarantee loading on a ship, market participants said. Freight-all-kinds base rates excluding fuel surcharges and premium service fees for the same route increased by $800/forty-foot equivalent units to $6,600/FEU at the start of July.
One US importer said they paid in the $18,000-$20,000/FEU range each for several boxes loading in early July from North Asia to the US East Coast on a port-to-port basis.
German shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd and Switzerland-based shipowner MSC have nominated trans-Pacific FAK rate increases of $2,000/FEU and $3,000/FEU respectively for mid-July as the market enters its traditional third-quarter peak demand season, although US import volumes have already climbed to unprecedented levels this year.
Premiums from Southeast Asia stabilize
Premium rates for the Southeast Asia-to-North America route were stable in the week to July 9, after shipping lines hiked FAK rates by $2,000-$2,500/FEU for routes to the West and East Coast coasts of North America in the last two weeks.
Premium rates for Southeast Asia to West Coast North America were in a wider $12,500-$18,000/FEU range, while those bound for the East Coast were heard as high as $23,000/FEU, market participants said.
Despite being more than double the FAK rates, the premiums failed to promise a prompt booking and the expected loading time was still three to four weeks, sources said.
"Even at the premium rates, bookings to both the US and Canada are extremely difficult," a Shenzhen-based source said.
But the situation at ports in China is much better now as operations at Yantian port are coming back to normal, the source said, adding that the trucking rates are going higher now.
While the majority of participants cited delays and space crunch, an exporter based in India said he recently sent a shipment to US and was "shocked" to see that his cargo was shipped from Jawahar Lal Nehru Port within five days of being carted at the railway yard.
"I remember facing higher delays in 2019 when the pandemic wasn't even there," the Indian exporter said.
No further GRIs tabled for Asia-to-Europe
Asia-to-Europe rates appear to have hit their short-term upper limit with no general rate increases on the horizon at this stage.
With the Yantian port issues starting to ease slightly, more boxes are beginning to flow from Asia to Europe, easing some of the tensions that carriers have faced in recent weeks.
Despite this, shipowners are still bullish amid a longer backlog of demand, which has compelled some shippers to pay up front to see their goods delivered sooner.
Platts Container Rate 1 – North Asia-to-North Continent – was assessed at $17,000/FEU on July 9, unchanged on the week.