Transpacific ocean spot rates continued to ease last week, with prices to the West Coast now down 18% from their GRI-driven mid-April climb. Some observers see early signs of a rate war in this retreat, and indeed, a smaller share of capacity has been removed in May compared to April even as rates have declined. Carriers are nonetheless reportedly planning June GRIs on the transpacific, though there is skepticism these will result in more increases unless significantly more capacity is removed as demand is projected to increase only gradually into next month.
Some retailers, including many in the apparel industry, are still contending with inventory surpluses and may wait until as late as the fall – when they hope to have less stock and a better sense of consumer demand – to place their peak season orders.
On the Asia – N. Europe lane – where rates have been stable overall at about $1,400/FEU since mid-March and are on par with 2019 levels – alongside blanked sailing strategies, some carriers are actually adding vessels but slowing sailing speedsenough to add days to transit times and reduce effective capacity levels.
Asia – Mediterranean rates have now fallen 81% since a year ago, but at $2,441/FEU prices on this lane have proven more resilient than Asia – Europe rates. Spot prices to Mediterranean ports are still 32% higher than in 2019, and as demand has held up and Q1 volumes actually increased compared to a year ago, some carriers are increasing capacity on this lane.
In air cargo, hope for a demand and rate rebound before the fall peak season months may be fading, as volumes decline and capacity continues to recover. Freightos Air Index data for last week had Asia – Europe rates at $3.57/kg, 57% lower than a year ago, and Asia – N. America rates of $4.03/kg were more than 70% lower than this week last year.