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Lines follow Maersk rate rise from China

Container shipping line Maersk took the market by surprise last Monday, announcing that it would impose a 49% freight all kinds (FAK) spot rate increase on its Asia-North Europe services, with other carriers quick to follow their lead.

At this point in the year, peak season demand would typically push rates up naturally, but sustained weak demand and huge amounts of capacity in the market have been pushing them in the opposite direction. 

Maersk’s increase, which takes effect on the 1st August and while there is no significant peak season this year, more carriers are already following their lead, with similar increases.

The day after Maersk’s surprise increase, CMA CGM followed suit, with broadly similar GRIs, while MSC blanked that week’s sailing of the MSC Rifaya from Shanghai due to “slowing demand” and has since announced its own GRI.

The following lines (so far) have announced FAK rate increases of $200-300 per TEU (double for FEU) effective from 1st August 2023

Maersk | CMA | MSC | HMM | Evergreen | OOCL

Given where rates are currently it is not surprising to see the carriers try and push back and it does feel like we’re back in a pre-pandemic market, with rates floating around the range where carriers regularly announce general rate increases [GRIs] because some will stick, entirely or partially. 

Typically GRIs success reflects supply and demand fundamentals and in times of weak demand they usually struggle to succeed, as a series of trans-Pacific GRIs in April, May and June did little to lift spot rates from China to the USA. 

Hapag Lloyd claim that the peak season is difficult to evaluate from Asia-Europe because additional capacity has been launched at the same time and that customer behaviour is mixed by industry, with some having increased bookings while others are still reporting high inventories.”

The new container ship order book currently sits at 7.3 million TEUs, which represents almost a third of the current global fleet, with 2.5 million TEUs due in 2023 and the biggest share to be deployed on the Asia-Europe trade. Even if we unexpectedly get a supercharged peak season coming out of nowhere, the volume of this capacity injection will be too much. 

The sea freight market from Asia is multi-layered and complex and actions by individual carriers or alliances can have a profound impact on services and the market’s competitive dynamics, which is why we work closely with our network partners in China and across Asia, to adapt to changes and identify opportunities for our customers.

If you have any questions or concerns about the developments outlined in this story, please EMAIL Colin Redman now for the latest insights and intelligence.