Supply Chain Council of European Union |

Carriers ‘using pandemic to boost profits’ claim, as Asia-Europe rates explode

containerport of Bremerhaven, Germany.

Container freight rates from Asia to Europe are going through the roof, mirroring the trend on the transpacific, with regulators seemingly unable to stop the relentless onslaught on shippers that threatens to sink business.

European and US importers outside or in excess of contract are seeing their freight budgets destroyed by unprecedented FAK and GRI hikes that many fear remain until at least Chinese New Year in February.

After a “shock and awe” advisory from Hapag-Lloyd last week that its FAK rates to North Europe and the Mediterranean would rise $2,000 per 40ft from 1 December, more massive rate hikes were unveiled today.

Anecdotal reports from Chinese agents suggest increases in the market ranging from $7,000-$8,000 per 40ft high-cube for the UK, to an incredible $10,000 per 40ft high-cube being quoted on a major carrier spot platform for Yantian to Algeciras.

Moreover, rates being quoted today relate to shipment this month, suggesting carriers may attempt to push rates higher in December.

“It’s shocking,” said one UK forwarder, “it leaves us constantly going back to our customers to increase rates to cover the additional costs.”

Another added: “It’s getting silly now, and making it unviable to move freight. So it’s just going to sit in warehouses in China until ,probably, March.”

This morning The Loadstar has seen all-in spot rate quotes from China to Felixstowe and Southampton of between $5,600 and $7,000 per 40ft, plus an average $1,000 equipment guarantee fee.

And shippers to the UK are also being asked to pay a port congestion surcharge for Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway discharge, without any guarantee that their containers will be landed at the nominated port.

The European Shippers’ Council (ESC) has accused ocean carriers of using the pandemic as a mechanism for gain.

“The present pandemic situation cannot be used as a tool to increase profit,” said Jordi Espin, policy manager for the shippers association.

He told The Loadstar the constant rate increases and surcharges from carriers had to stop: “This new normality scheme must end,” he warned. “The market needs now, more than ever, to revert to standard relations and smooth cooperation; there is no other way.”

Meanwhile, large NVOCC Asia to Europe shippers with annual contracts have, in general, been insulated from the rate explosion, with the majority of carriers honouring their volume commitments.

Hapag-Lloyd’s chief executive, Rolf Habben Jansen, said last week that its average rate per teu in Q3 had been held down by the line transporting “quite a lot of contract cargo” during the period.

However, freight forwarders are telling The Loadstar that even contract cargo is not immune from price hikes, with one UK forwarder reporting one of its carriers had demanded a $550 per teu peak season surcharge on top of the agreed freight rate for shipments to the UK.

“And if we don’t pay it, we have been told the cargo will not be loaded,” he added.

And with the European annual contract renewal season about to commence, new long-term rates look set to increase substantially.

“Spot rates set the tone and my expectation is that contract rates will go up,” Mr Habben Jansen said on Friday.

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