air freight

Space issues causing trouble for shipping routes

Unusually tight capacity for the time of year is leading to rising rates, booking restrictions and backlogs for European exporters needing to ship from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.

This is in part attributed to exceptionally high levels of post Chinese New Year shipping cancellations, which have meant price increases for Europe to Asia container rates.

At this point, all bookings are being honoured, even though there seems to be a perception that this isn’t the case.

Hapag-Lloyd have introduced a US$200 peak season surcharge (PSS) for containers from Europe North Continent to East Asia, effective for sailings as of 15 March and valid until further notice. Many forwarders are recommending at least 3 weeks advanced notice of bookings.

The bankruptcy of the Hanjin shipping line last year has had a knock on effect from when it ceased to accept new cargo. Hanjin was the 7th largest container shipper in the world and the news has meant that their cargo has had to be distributed amongst an already nearly full to capacity fleet. Other shipping lines eventually took over their cargo, but at a price, with vessels already operating at high capacity.

Patrik Berglund, CEO of containerised ocean freight data specialist Xeneta said that data indicates that the current short-term rates for 40’ containers from North Europe to Asia averaged US$969. This level of pricing started in November and December ahead of Chinese New Year and had stayed high – and slightly continued to move upwards, Berglund said.
He said it was difficult to give a precise and short answer to the reasons for the current unexpected capacity crunch and high prices, but suggested it was due to a combination of carriers extracting more capacity than predicted demand and re-routing of capacity onto other corridors.

Xeneta had indicated in the lead-up to Chinese New Year that container lines operating on Asia-Europe trades were taking stronger measures than usual to maintain the recent recovery in ocean freight prices by making major cuts to capacity in the weeks after Lunar New Year. Since towards the end of 2016, the market has experienced a strong and sustained recovery, with container rates around 125% higher than they were around this time last year for Asia-Europe routes, Xeneta said. Xeneta’s sources had indicated that carriers were “taking stronger measures to deal with overcapacity to make sure the market stays up”, indicating that lines were attempting to prop up prices by reducing westbound sailings by 33% in the week immediately after Lunar new year and by around 43% from full capacity the following week. Xeneta noted at the time that this behaviour from carriers may mark a distinct difference compared with this period normally in previous years, when rates traditionally slide in the aftermath of Chinese New Year.

china uk

First rail freight service to China has departed from the UK

The first rail freight service from the UK to China departed on its 17 day, 7500 mile journey on April 10th.

British goods including soft drinks, vitamins and baby products are in the 30 containers carried by the train, which will be a regular service.The DP World locomotive left its terminal in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, for Zhejiang province, eastern China. It will pass through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is cheaper to send goods by train than by air and faster than by sea, according to its operators.

The first rail freight service in the opposite direction, from China to the UK, arrived three months ago, the link to the news article we wrote is here. The new service is linked to Chinas One Belt One Road initiative, something we discussed in our news post here.

International trade minister Greg Hands said: ‘This new rail link with China is another boost for global Britain, following the ancient Silk Road trade route to carry British products around the world.‘It shows the huge global demand for quality UK goods and is a great step for DP World’s £1.5 billion London Gateway port as it also welcomes its first regular container ships from Asia.’

The train finally arrived in China on the 29th April (2 days later than the predicted 27th) and was greeted by traders and shipping company officials when it arrived at Yiwu West station.

air freight

Air freight rates climb in March

The latest figures from Drewry’s Sea and Air Shipper Insight report show that average ‘all-in’ air freight rates across 21 major east-west trade lanes increased by 7.9% year on year in March to reach $2.84 per kg. Prices were also up on February levels when airlines achieved an average price across the trade lanes of $2.73 per kg.

Drewry said that this time last year prices remained broadly flat compared with the previous month but added that current prices were still relatively low. The major airports reporting tonnage figure surged month-on-month displays that despite relatively low airfreight rates, there has definitely been growth in the trade. Capacity continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace than last year, although utilisation has gone up along with the rise in load factors.”

Major airports have seen double-digit rises, while key carriers also reported good tonnage increases – the biggest gains from Lufthansa, up 19% year-on-year, and American and United rose 24%. Meanwhile, airlines have reported that product launches are now no longer confined to the fourth quarter and perishables are in year-round demand.

Back in February, Drewry said it expected pricing to soften through March, due to lower volumes following the Lunar New Year holiday and the easing of congestion at the US West Coast ocean ports. However, beginning in April, rates should recover as air freight demand picks back up.

There was a two cent dip in prices paid compared with February, but month-on-month declines are expected at this time of the year and the rate of decline was much slower than that of both 2015 and 2016.

The improvement in airfreight prices comes as airlines have been seeing unusually high demand for the time of the year, with some suggesting this is down to a containership capacity shortage as shipping lines are in the process of launching a series of new alliances. Underlying demand also seems to be improving, while jet fuel prices have increased by around 30% compared with a year ago.

MOL Triumph

The worlds largest container ship takes its maiden voyage

The worlds largest container ship, the MOL Triumph, set off on her maiden voyage from Xingang, China on the 10th April. With a gross tonnage of 210678, deadweight of 197500 tonnes and length and breadth of 400m x 59m it certainly does pack a punch – with the ability to carry 20,150 twenty foot containers.

MOL will sail to Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Hong Kong, Yantian and Singapore, before it transits through the Suez Canal. It will then continue on to Tangier, Southampton, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Le Havre before calling back at at Tangier and then Jebel Ali on the return voyage to Asia.

The new 20,000 TEU-class container ships are equipped with various highly advanced energy-saving technologies. These include low friction underwater paint, high efficiency propeller and rudder, Savor Stator as a stream fin on the hull body, and an optimised fine hull form. According to MOL, these technologies can further reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per container moved by about 25-30% when compared to 14,000 TEU-class containerships. Additionally, the vessel has also been designed with the retrofit option to convert to LNG, in view of the implementation of the International Maritime Organisation’s new regulation to limit emission in marine fuels, which will come into effect in 2020.

MOL will take the delivery of the second 20,000 TEU-class vessel in May 2017. Eventually there will be six 20,000 TEU-class containerships unveiled, and they will be phased in gradually on the existing trade routes of MOL.

MOL Triumph takes the title as the world’s largest containership from the 19,224 TEU MSC Oscar and her three sister ships. The four vessels were delivered to Mediterranean Shipping Company in 2015 by South Korea’s DSME. They measure 395.4 meters in length and have a beam of 59 meters.

At this time, we are anticipating the ship arriving into Southampton on roughly the 11th May, and we will keep you updated with its progress.