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Trans-Pacific Rate Benchmark Hits 2011 Low

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Spot rates slide 2.6 percent in the week ending Sept. 26, says Drewry

The Drewry Container Rate Benchmark for trans-Pacific spot pricing fell for the second straight week in the week ending Sept. 26, sliding another 2.5 percent from the week before to the lowest level of the year.

With Alphaliner projecting carriers will lose $300 million this fall, chances are growing that container lines may pull back capacity, whether by idling ships, dropping some port calls or dropping some strings.

The Drewry benchmark rate fell to $1,521 per 40-foot equivalent container unit in the week ended Sept. 26 in the face of weak consumer demand during the U.S. peak season. That¡¯s down from $1,561 per FEU last week, when the rate fell by 5.6 percent from the week before.

This week¡¯s average spot rate was 38 percent lower than the $2,454 per FEU benchmark in the same week last year. The last time the Drewry benchmark increased week-over-week was in the week ended Aug. 1, when carriers put a postponed peak season surcharge into effect.

In that week the benchmark rate increased by 21.5 percent week-over-week to $1,853 per FEU, but the Drewry benchmark has been flat or sliding in the six weeks since then, indicating that carriers have not been able to collect the full $400 per FEU surcharge published by the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement.

Drewry bases its trans-Pacific benchmark on an average of spot rates, excluding terminal handling charges, from non-vessel-operating common carriers in Hong Kong each week. Eastbound spot freight rates only apply to about 10 percent of trans-Pacific container volume, since most cargo is priced at a rate set under the annual contracts.

-- Contact Peter T. Leach at pleach@joc.com. Follow him on Twitter @petertleach.

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