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  • Writer's pictureStephen Fodor

Trans-Pacific shipping rates reach all-time high

January 5, 2021

(American Shipper) Is this the end of the mysterious trans-Pacific rate plateau? The good news for ocean carriers — and bad news for shippers — is that rates are rising yet again.

Base spot rates for container shipments from Asia to the U.S. West Coast had been curiously flat since late September. Rates kept to a narrow band at record-high levels of around $3,800-$3,900 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU).

The unnatural flatness of the rate trend line during a period when demand was not flat led to speculation that the trans-Pacific rate level was, in fact, not natural.

One theory is that liners declined to charge higher base spot rates after a meeting with Chinese regulators in mid-September. Actual rates continued to increase when including premium charges, with the static base rate meant to assuage regulators — or so the theory goes.

Whether that speculation is true or not, something appears to have budged. Over recent days, spot rates have headed higher.

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