The Cliff-like Decline In Ocean Freight Rates And Volumes

The annual peak season is an annual event in the global freight industry, and it is also a day that many logistics companies are looking forward to. E-commerce platforms and retailers will start promotional activities during different festivals, so the peak season will also start at different time nodes.

In order to ensure that retail products can be on the shelves during the festival, different freight suppliers will usher in peak seasons at different time points. The specific performance is:

  • Sea Containers: July to September
  • Truck and rail intermodal: October to December 15
  • Express packages: Black Friday to December 24
The Cliff-like Decline In Ocean Freight Rates And Volumes
The Cliff-like Decline In Ocean Freight Rates And Volumes

The peak season of shipping has passed. Judging from the current situation, whether it is container shipping or land transportation, this year’s peak season will be very weak.

According to SONAR’s container atlas (container Atlas) data, the volume of shipping containers is declining rapidly. SONAR’s container atlas mainly tracks the scheduled volume at the departure point. By tracking the order at the origin, it is possible to understand the changes in the import volume of containers arriving at US ports in advance. Happening

At the time, we thought cargo volumes at U.S. ports would contract in July, but we underestimated the time it would take to clear the backlog of container ships from major U.S. ports and then wait to clear U.S. customs.

In August, judging from the US Customs import volume data, the market performance was relatively stable without shrinking, and the industry had sufficient confidence. But today, the rise in spot rates for ocean freight and the actions of container shipping lines present a very different reality.

In June, it cost $9,630 to ship a 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast. By October, the shipping price for the same container had halved to $2,470, a drop of 74%. Plummeting container rates show carriers are rapidly losing pricing power

Global Container Freight Index (1-year period) Source: FREIGHTOS

The background of this phenomenon is a large number of “blank voyages” in container shipping lines. During this period, major shipping companies have expressed that they will cancel voyages and withdraw capacity from the market. Container lines have canceled more than a quarter of their Pacific sailings since October, according to Sea-Intelligence data.

However, even if the container companies suspend a large number of sailings and substantially adjust the container routes, they will not be able to save the diving container prices. Ultimately, freight is a commodity that follows the laws of supply and demand. The plunge in ocean freight rates reflects a rapid decline in cargo volumes.

In September, the slowdown in containerized imports was too severe to ignore. Among them, the Port of Los Angeles, as the largest port in the United States, indicated in its report that, excluding the impact of the financial crisis in 2009, the Port of Los Angeles handled the least number of imported containers in September this year.

The weakness in imports is not only reflected in the Port of Los Angeles, but also in other ports in the West of the United States. For example, the Port of Long Beach posted its lowest September container imports since 2016; Seattle/Tacoma September imports were also the worst in seven years.

Although it will take longer for the decline in cargo volume to affect the ports in the east of the United States, signs of weak imports have already appeared. September was the Port of Savannah’s weakest month for container imports this year, down 9.8% year-over-year.

An estimated 75% of U.S. containerized imports are related to consumer activity. Significant drops in freight rates and volumes today are a negative sign for any shipping method at the end

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