Spot rates for containers shipped by sea from Asia to Europe and the U.S. have sunk despite the crush of Christmas-season orders, as companies cut prices in the battle for market share.
Spot marine shipping rates from Asia to the U.S. West Coast ran around $1,410 per 40-foot equivalent unit — the volume of a standard 40-foot shipping container — at the end of September. Shippers charged around $710 per 20-foot equivalent unit headed from Asia to Europe. Both these rates are around 10% lower than in mid-September, and have dropped 10-20% over the past month.
September rounds out the peak season for shipments departing factories in Asia for Western nations as companies prepare for the Christmas shopping crunch. Many companies maintained loading ratios above 90% on those routes this year. But less-creditworthy shippers were apparently left with more open space on their ships, and sought to fill it by cutting prices, “weighing down the market as a whole,” according to one source at a foreign shipping firm.
A number of shippers have cut regular service on key routes to reduce the apparent glut of cargo space. But loading at ports in China will be halted this week for the National Day holiday, and prices are expected to remain soft for some time.