From April, sea freight rates are going up again!
Carriers have reportedly begun to take notice of traditionally lower-revenue backhaul routes in order to restore rates to a level that will incentivize them to offer freight containers rather than ship empty containers back to Asia.
For the inaugural route, Trans-Pacific Lines reduced its GRI (General Rate Increase Surcharge) in September 2020 following sweeping regulation by Chinese agencies, and is now preparing to introduce a rate increase in April.
For example, as of April 1, Hapag-Lloyd is proposing a GRI of $1,200 per 40 feet for customers from Asia to the U.S. and Canada, while other transpacific carriers typically use a one-month GRI and PSS during the off-season when price pressure is high.
However, U.S. consumer demand is undiminished, with the National Retail Federation forecasting retail sales to grow more than 8 percent this year as the U.S. vaccination program reaches 100 million doses.
Meanwhile, demand on Asian and European routes has weakened over the past few weeks, but so far there are no signs that spot rates will plummet, instead the expectation is that there will be a "small adjustment" to inflation, which has been 450% since the second half of 2020.
On both sides of the Atlantic, OOCL and Hapag-Lloyd are preparing to raise rates from April 1 by $1,000 per 40 feet from Northern Europe to the U.S., a traditionally stable trade route that is usually adjusted by less than $100 in a year.
On the return route, carriers will also implement a series of tariff increases and PSS from April 1: for example, CMA CGM will increase PSS by $250 per container for shipments to Asia from Northern Europe.
Backhaul spot rates from Northern Europe to Asia have almost doubled since October 2020 to around $1,600 per 40 feet. One UK freight forwarder said he was told that all his export trade would see a rate increase.