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THERE has been a huge jump in the cost of long-term ocean freight rates into Australasia over the past year, according to recent data from benchmarking platform and market intelligence company Xeneta.

According to the company’s chief analyst Peter Sand, increases since July 2019 threaten to “rewrite industry record books”.

Mr Sand said the global market for container shipping is in overdrive, much to the pain of shippers and adding to the huge profits of our leading carriers.

“Nowhere is this more obvious that with the chief trades – from China, South East Asia and Northern Europe – into Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

“Although the data on our platform shows a stabilisation of average rates for long-term agreements in recent months, the fact that they’re replacing older ones at much, much lower levels mean the average for all valid contracts has been pushed through the roof for many already cash-strapped shippers.”

Xeneta’s data shows that despite falling import volumes over the first five months of the year – down 7.6% into Australia and 13.5% to New Zealand – rates are at record highs.

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The biggest trade into the region, from the Far East, illustrates this, with the average long-term rate on 1 July standing at US$7600 per FEU. This is more than twice July 2021’s figure, and an increase of 375% against July 2019.

However, the largest percentage surge has been seen in agreements from South East Asia, which are up more than 420% since summer 2019 (currently US$7800 per FEU, a climb of US$6300 over the past three years).

In the last year alone, the average for long-term contracts has shot up by close to US$5000 per FEU (from US$2900 per FEU in July 2021), making this the corridor with the largest annual increase.

Finally, long-term rates from North Europe are the most expensive of the main trades – and the only ones above US$8000 per FEU – having risen 160% since July last year. This is despite the fact volumes here have fallen 4.2% year-on-year in the first five months of 2022.

Mr Sand said: “In an increasingly complex world, we can no longer rely on the old rules of thumb to predict rates developments and accurately assess the supply-demand picture,” Sand concludes. “All parties planning ocean freight strategies, and entering negotiations, need to have the latest data to gain whatever competitive advantage they can”.

“It’s tough out there and, from what we can see here, especially for those shippers with their sights set on these key Australasian markets.”

Xeneta’s data shows that, in the first five months of the year, 41% of total containerised imports to Australia came from China, with 20% from South East Asia. The respective figures for the two corridors into New Zealand are 22% and 13%.

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