Market Overview

Breakfall: Ocean Box Rates Flat After Big Slump

Breakfall: Ocean Box Rates Flat After Big Slump



It's a game of several parts as Drewry Shipping Consultants' World Container Index indicates that rates are marginally down by 0.3 percent compared to the previous week. But the index is massively up, by 12.8 percent, compared with the same period last year. A flattening market can be perceived as "good news" given there have been a couple of weeks of slump.

According to Drewry's latest figures, the composite index stands at US$1,330 for a forty-foot equivalent unit box (FEU). All monetary figures in this article are in U.S. dollars. That figure is a marginal 0.3 percent decline from the previous week, which stood at $1,334. On a five-week average, the composite index is currently gaining $2.75/FEU each week.

With announcements of void and blank sailings from several of the Asia-based carriers in the last few days there may be some upward rate pressure, especially as a variety of lines have also given notice of general rate increases (GRIs). However, these increases are notorious for not sticking.


There was little change on the trans-Pacific routes last week compared to the week before in Drewry's assessment.

On the backhaul route, there was only a tiny fall on the Los Angeles-Shanghai route of about $2 per FEU. It represents a fall of about -0.4 percent to stand at $500/FEU. That figure is above the five-week average of $511 FEU. This backhaul route is currently gaining about $1.25 FEU/week on a five-week average basis.

Rates were completely flat on the fronthaul routes out of Shanghai to Los Angeles and New York. Drewry assessed rates of $1,504/FEU last week on the Shanghai-Los Angeles route and $2,672 on the Shanghai-New York route. These two fronthaul routes have seen some volatility in recent weeks.

There were gains in late March and then big jumps above 15 percent in early April (both routes) followed by a near 13 percent slump on the Shanghai-Los Angeles route in mid-April and a 4 percent slump on the Shanghai-New York route. With the last week being flat, perhaps a period of stability is about to take place. The current rate on the Shanghai-Los Angeles route is, in Drewry's assessment, $1,504/FEU while the five-week average rate on the Shanghai-Los Angeles route is $1,524/FEU. This route is gaining $34.75 per FEU again, on a five-week mean.

The current rate on the Shanghai-New York route is $2,672/FEU and the five-week mean is $2,582/FEU, so the current rate is a little below average right now. This rate is gaining $57.50 on a five-week basis.


Drewry assessed rates on two main routes for its trans-Atlantic numbers. These are the front-haul and back-haul routes on the New York-Rotterdam trades.

New York-Rotterdam stood at $534 last week, which is a marginal increase of 0.4 percent on the previous week. This route has been stable (compared to the trans-Pacific routes) in the last few weeks. For the last five weeks, rates on this route average out at $543/FEU but it is losing about $6.40 on average each week. That declining weekly average is driven by the fall in rates on this route in late March and early April.

Rates on the Rotterdam-New York trade lane have lurched into life, however. After being flat for the preceding five weeks, last week they increased by over 15 percent to stand at $2,302/FEU. Drewry attributes that hike to the imposition of GRIs by the ocean carriers. As previously mentioned, GRIs do not always hold. Drewry expects that "the rates may fall next week."

The five-week average on this route is $2,053/FEU, so the current rate is a few hundred dollars above the average. This route has been gaining, on average, $64.60 per FEU each week, but that figure is wholly driven by the $306/FEU rate increase that the ocean carriers made stick last week. Remove last week's rate hike from the calculation and the weekly increase falls to only $4.25/FEU per week.

Asia Europe

Drewry's Asia-Europe assessment is based on three routes: Rotterdam-Shanghai; Shanghai-Rotterdam; and Shanghai-Genoa.

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Rates on the Rotterdam-Shanghai route stood at $543/FEU last week, which is unchanged from the week before. Rates on this route have been fairly flat – either unchanged during the last five weeks or varying up (or down) by a maximum of 1.5 percent. The five-week average on this route is $544. As may be expected from a flat route, the week-to-week difference in the box rate is minimal and, on a five-week mean, the route is gaining $0.20 per week.

Rates on the other two routes fell, however.

There was a 3.5 percent fall in the Shanghai-Rotterdam box rates to stand at $1,312/FEU, which is now several dollars beneath the five-week average of $1,372 on this route. Rates on this route have been declining on a five-week mean by $36.60/FEU each week.

And, finally, rates on the Shanghai-Genoa trade route stood at $1,474/FEU which is marginally down by 0.8 percent. That represents a fall of about $12/FEU from last week. The five-week average on this route is $1,469/FEU so the current rate is marginally above that average. The route is losing $15.20/FEU per week on a five-week mean. However, that average weekly decline is particularly influenced by a large fall of $106/FEU in mid-March. Knock that particular data point out of the calculation and the four-week average change swings from a decline to a $7.50/FEU per week gain.

Image sourced from Pixabay


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