Container freight rates from East Asia to Australia have reached a 10-year high, rising to over US$1,648/TEU as of 9 October 2020, according to the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index.
Container movements along the route have rebounded as Australia seeks to gradually reopen its economy after a series of Covid-19-related lockdowns. Transhipments from Australia and from other regions have also been rising.
This has spurred liner operators, including ZIM and MSC to add more capacity to the route, especially to cater for peak demand as Australian retailers stock up ahead of Christmas. ZIM resumed their service this month after a five-year absence.
Container shipping consultancy Alphaliner estimates that average weekly capacity for established cellular services on the Far East – Australia/New Zealand route stands at about 91,000TEU. The newly introduced loops add some 7,200TEU or around 8% of capacity, excluding the ad hoc sweeper sailings.
CMA CGM’s Australian arm, ANL Container Line, COSCO Shipping Lines and Orient Overseas Container Lines, members of the Asia Australia Consortium launched a seasonal China-Australia service, XTRANL/PSL, in August 2020, using four ships of 1,700TEU to 2,800TEU.
ANL said its analysis of goods carried into Australia in the first half of 2020 showed a significant year-on-year rise in the volume of consumer goods, with a 46% increase in bottled water shipments, followed by grains (+38%), fruit and nuts (+33%), coffee/tea (+24%) and foodstuffs (+6%).
ANL said, “The significant increase in imports was largely justified by the need to replenish stocks in response to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and related stockpiling.”
Although Australian port workers, led by the Maritime Union of Australia, began industrial action in late September, they have agreed to stop the strikes until November, when they are expected to conclude an agreement regarding salaries.