Trans-Pacific Vessel Count on Course for Sharp Increase


  • Trans-Pacific capacity forecast 41% above pre-pandemic levels
  • Freight All Kinds rates stable, while premiums falter

Containership tonnage on the trans-Pacific trade is set to swell from March, as limited blanked sailings and additional vessel charters push available capacity well above pre-pandemic levels, reports Platts quoting the market analytics provider Sea-Intelligence.

A seasonal dip

The number of containerships scheduled to depart Asia for the US West Coast will rise to nearly 56% over pre-pandemic averages during the week of April 18, settling at a 41% increase during April, according to data provided by Sea-Intelligence.

With the recent data, we can see a seasonal dip due to Chinese New Year 2022, but it is the increase in March/April 2022 which should be particularly noticed,” said Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy. That is likely to put renewed pressure on US Pacific Coast ports, which have only recently begun to make material improvements in vessel queues.

There were 74 ships at anchor outside or slow steaming toward the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach Feb. 16, down from a record high 109 Jan. 9, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Record import demand combined with landside logistical constraints pushed ship queues to fresh highs beginning in the third quarter of 2021. The queues have only recently began to ease with the Lunar New Year production slowdown seen in North American import gateways.

Market sources have attributed the USWC congestion reprieve to the Lunar New Year holiday in Asia and the accompanying export lull period. Sources expect volumes to regain ground in March and beyond.

Blank sailings are decreasing after the Chinese New Year,” Jon Monroe, president of Jon Monroe Consulting said in a report Feb. 13. “Expect that by the end of February there will be minimal blank sailings.”

FAK rates rangebound, while premiums erode

As capacity temporarily became less scarce during the Lunar New Year pause, all-inclusive rates which shippers pay to secure loading and equipment guarantees fell to around $12,000/FEU, from January highs of between $16,000-$20,000/FEU.

FAK base rates into the USWC held firm during February. Platts Container Rate 13 — North Asia-to-West Coast North America — was assessed at $9,500 Feb. 17.

There was some slight upside in the Asia to US Atlantic Coast trade, as shippers looked to reshuffle cargo from congestion-ridden Pacific Coast ports, which put some additional pressure on vessel space allocated for US East Coast calls.

PCR5 — North Asia-to-USEC — gained $50 from Jan. 31 and was assessed at $10,950/FEU Feb. 17.

What is more alarming is that there is a 60% increase in the number of vessels on the Asia-North America East Coast trade lane in the coming months, as carriers try to circumnavigate port congestion on the West Coast,” Murphy said. “This will severely increase pressure on the port infrastructure on the East Coast.”

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Source: Platts


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