Indexes falling but still very high
Different spot rate indexes provide different numbers but generally show the same trend. The Drewry World Container Index (WCI) put Rotterdam-New York spot rates at $6,322 per forty-foot equivalent unit in the week ending Thursday, unchanged from the week before. In contrast, Drewry’s Shanghai-Los Angeles Index and its global composite are just above $2,000 per FEU, close to pre-pandemic levels.
While the WCI Rotterdam-New York index has fallen 15% from its all-time high in November, it’s still 2.6 times higher than it was in January 2020.
This is down 27% from November, but still 2.9 times January 2020 levels.
Both contract rates and spot rates were tracked. Its short-term index put North Europe-U.S. East Coast rates at $6,086 per FEU as of Wednesday. Long-term rates for this trade were under $6,000 per FEU as of mid-January.
Spot rates have fallen below contract rates in almost all of the world’s container trades — but not yet in the trans-Atlantic westbound lane. In markets where spot rates have sunk well below contract prices, carriers have agreed to lower some of their long-term rates in mid-contract, further reducing revenues. That renegotiation dynamic does not apply in the trans-Atlantic.
Europe-U.S. rates remain “historically strong,” said Chief Analyst earlier this month, adding that both short-term and contract rates in January 2021 “were roughly a third of today’s prices.”
Carriers shift more ships to the Atlantic
Rate strength continues to attract more ships to the trade, which are being shifted in from less profitable markets like the trans-Pacific. The new capacity is “now undermining the high rates that attracted the vessels in the first place,” noted Chief Analyst.
Sea-Intelligence said last month that trans-Pacific westbound capacity will increase 20%-30% in the first quarter.
Alphaliner has reported numerous service additions: Cosco, OOCL and ONE doubled the sailing frequency of their East Med-East Coast “EMA” service. THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance reinstated calls in New York and Savannah, Georgia, for their joint Med-East Coast “AL6” loop. Ellerman City Liners launched a new North Europe-East Coast service. Evergreen upsized its ships in the trans-Atlantic market. The 2M alliance between Maersk and MSC added three ships to its coverage.