IN WHAT is an absolute rarity in recent years, a peak season surcharge (PSS) has been announced for an outbound trade from Australia.

ANL and CMA CGM will impose a US$300/TEU PSS on all shipments from Australia, NZ, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste to the US East Coast/US Gulf and Latin America (Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands included) from 15 June.

The colleague carriers say the surcharge will apply to all cargo types and all contract types and continue indefinitely.

Industry insiders say it appears the PSS, which principally affects the weekly CMA CGM PAD service through Panama to Central America and ECNA, and then Europe, is being driven by unexpectedly high volumes of contracted Zespri kiwifruit exports from NZ, along with high demand from meat exporters for reefer space to ECNA.

Zespri is expecting strong growth across all kiwifruit varieties this season, with around 190 million trays of kiwifruit to be shipped to markets around the world.

In the latest edition of Drewry’s recent Reefer Shipping Forecaster the consultancy advised that after a tumultuous year in 2023, the reefer sector has started 2024 on a stronger footing as healthy crops in the Southern Hemisphere have helped to lift growth. This trend is set to continue across 2024 as a whole, with a return to growth forecast for the sector after two years of declines.

“Good growing seasons have supported improved deciduous exports so far this year …  in New Zealand, although a slow start for kiwis this year, is expected to develop into a good crop later, with export volumes substantially up from last year’s disappointing performance.

“Stronger exports of key commodities are reinforced by falling reefer freight rates as shipping lines continue to adjust prices down after pandemic era disruptions. Having risen slightly in 1Q24 due to the risk of the Middle Eastern conflict, average reefer rates are now expected to continue falling as excess capacity in the container segment compensates for any rerouting needed around the Red Sea.

“Similarly, container shipping has proven resilient amidst the persistent challenges posed by delays and backlogs at the Panama Canal. Long-term deals signed by container shipping lines have secured priority for many shipments, with the larger operators in particular able to obtain priority and maintain schedules,” Drewry said.

“Building on the momentum seen in the first few months of the year, Drewry expects improvements in exports and a continued decline in reefer freight rates to shape the outlook this year, with overall worldwide seaborne reefer volumes set to increase by more than 1% YoY in 2024.”