XENETA says that the year has ended on a high note for container shipping
lines despite the lack of sulphur surcharge transparency stoking market
This year has come to a close after two
months of increases in long-term contracted ocean freight rates across
key trading routes.
According to the latest XSI Public Indices report from Xeneta, which
provides market intelligence based on real-time crowd-sourced data from
leading shippers, global rates rose 0.9 per cent in December, following a
0.9 per cent rise in November.
Casting a shadow over this positive development, however, is market confusion over IMO 2020-related sulphur surcharges.
Xeneta's indices report that utilises 160 million data points covering
160,000 port-to-port pairings, shows that in December the index
increased by four per cent year on year.
"It's clearly been another good month for the liner industry," said
Xeneta CEO Patrik Berglund. "After the prolonged period of long-term
contracted freight rates decline it was certainly needed. The huge spike
in May, when rates soared by 11.5 per cent, was an anomaly with prices
continuing to fall away after that point.
"So, the moderate rise in November raised hopes that that established
trend had been broken, and this increase seems to confirm that?for now."
In Europe the import index increased 1.7 per cent and is now up 5.2 per
cent year on year. Exports, meanwhile, climbed by two per cent, driving
the benchmark up 3.7 per cent compared to December 2018. Spot rates on
the key Far East-North Europe trade have also been climbing steadily
since the end of October.
Staying in the Far East, the XSI import figure rose by 3.8 per cent
month on month, but still remains 13.1 per cent below the level reported
Far East exports were up by 0.6 per cent pushing the benchmark up 2.1
per cent. US imports grew by 1.3 per cent and are now up 23.1 per cent
year on year. The US export benchmark was the only one to show a
negative development in this month's report, with a slight fall of 0.1
per cent. Nevertheless, it remains 9.5 per cent up year on year.
Some shippers report agreeing on fixed rates with baked-in IMO 2020
charges for the first quarter of next year, with these rates actually
coming in at a lower level than pre-IMO contracted rates negotiated
earlier in 2019. Others have opted for a flexible approach, agreeing on
quarterly bunker adjustments, with a 'wait, watch and see' approach,
while a further group have adopted a mix of both strategies.
Mr Berglund comments: "If shippers can delay procurement of new freight
rates for as long as possible, it is advisable to wait and sit it out
for the first quarter of 2020. Delaying negotiations and monitoring
freight rate developments over Q1 should provide a better view on how to
navigate upcoming freight rate negotiations.