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When Will Ocean Shipping Market Return To Rationality?
2021-08-15 12:30chinapaperonline.com
Ocean freight rates for international cargo shipping by containers have been rising all the way since the start of 2020. Latest reports from Reuters and other media said by the first week of August 2021, freight rates for a standard forty-foot container to be shipped from China, via Southeast Asia, to main ports at West Coast of USA rose to US$18,555 and freight rates for those bound for main ports in East Coast of USA exceeded US$20,800, setting new records in history after spiraling 500% from a year ago! At the same time, freight rates for a standard forty-foot container from China to European main ports also went up to about US$14,000. Even so, shipping time from China to Eastern USA was significantly extended from about 30 days in the past to over 70 days today. In another word, it would take nearly 150 days now for a container to circulate back to its origin, which was down 50% in effective capacity. People were shocked by the situation that was unprecedented in the past three decades!

It is true that the rampant Delta variant and poor weather conditions, such as typhoons, have significantly slowed down global container turnover. However, exporters'eagerness to ship their orders in August, even yielding to higher freight cost, to deliver in time for the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday sales season that starts from October in the United States, has also fueled up the craziness in the ocean shipping market where demand for containers is greatly boosted and allows equipment providers to charge 10 times more than that of the old days to take and ship the cargo. The surge in container freight rates has also led to strong increases in container vessel charter price, alluring shipping companies to prioritize services on the most profitable routes and resulting in more capacity being transferred to Sino-US routes.

Regardless of the general hope for the ocean shipping market to cool down as soon as possible and return to rationality eventually, market professionals caution, however, that the current "extreme freight rate" may continue towards the Chinese New Year in 2022. Some even predict that ocean freight may go up further and no apparent improvement in vessel supply, prior to the launch of new vessels in 2023.

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