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Container freight hike adds to India, Pakistan import scrap rally

New York — A container shortage and freight hikes across Europe led to a sharp increase in imported shred prices to both India and Pakistan this week.

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S&P Global Platts assessed containerized shredded scrap into Nhava Sheva at $307/mt CFR Friday, up $20/mt week on week.

In Pakistan prices of imported shredded scrap increased by around $15/mt week on week to deals heard concluded at around $315/mt CFR.

Container freight for March sailings have soared on a shortage caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

For sailing in the first week of March, which implied loading this week, 20-foot container prices with one shipping company to the subcontinent were up $225 per container, according to information from scrap merchants.

For the second week of March an additional $50 was announced, followed by another $150 for the third week of March, bringing the total increase in container freight for the second half of March to $425.

With 27.50 mt of shred per 20-foot container, this suggests a freight increase of around $15/mt to India and Pakistan.

Several industry players cited a minimum $300 increase per container for this route from other providers.

News of a cancelled vessel ex-UK for February 26 shipment, with the next one leaving only on March 5, due to bad weather conditions, further added to pressure on freight, one UK scrap merchant told Platts.

Robust demand adds to price rally

In addition, an increase in buying in India and even more so in Pakistan has added to strong price support.

"There is strong demand, they didn't buy enough [in recent weeks]. Now they don't want to be in a tight position anymore," the scrap merchant said. "They are confident about the construction season, so everyone is buying."

In addition, prices received further support from a more upbeat sentiment as Chinese markets have also shown some stability this week, a Pakistani importer said.

Bids in Pakistan were heard at $312/mt for shredded material, while offers were already quoted at $320/mt CFR.

Demand in India was also considered to be solid, though not as strong as in Pakistan as smaller producers in the secondary sector was still expected to come into market fully in the future, according to an Indian trader.

Opting for bulk shipments

Freight on containers was expected to remain high over the next few weeks as the outcome of the current bottlenecks was unclear.

"Shipping schedules are all messed up now; once you call into China, the next port of call for some countries then requires you to wait out 14-21 days. When schedules are running on a weekly service.... we don't know how to plan anymore," a container shipper told Platts.

Turning to bulk shipments for the scrap material, which are subsequently distributed to multiple buyers, was an increasingly viable option.

While one Pakistani trader considered bulk shipments already "doable", the UK merchant said it would "make sense soon."

One European recycling company was heard to be making sales against the option to ship ferrous scrap either in containers or bulk.