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The $311 per 40-foot increase in the benchmark rate shows that Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) member carriers achieved around 50 percent of their intended $600 PSS price increase target.
"Cargo demand and carrier load factors have strengthened in the runup to Chinese New Year," says Martin Dixon, Drewry's research manager for freight rate benchmarking. "The wild card remains the threat of strike action at U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, which is also serving to strengthen rates."
The latest price increase brought Drewry's Hong Kong-Los Angeles container rate benchmark back to the same level it was at in October, but the index remains 12 percent off last year's peak reached in August.
The trans-Pacific has proved more resilient than the Asia-Europe trade to the overcapacity plaguing the industry. Drewry's Transpacific Eastbound Freight Rate Index, a weighted average of freight rates across multiple trades between Far East Asia and North America, climbed 8 percent in December compared with the previous month, to reach $3,357 per 40-foot container. It now stands just 2 percent off last year's high reached in September 2012.
However, given the increase in capacity on the trade compared with a year ago, the stability in spot rates may not prove sustainable. "The U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast strike threat notwithstanding, we expect spot rates to soften following Chinese New Year," added Dixon. "However, we caution that shippers should expect some increase in their 2012-13 contract rates on the eastbound trans-Pacific, given the stronger state of the market compared to last year."
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