Market Update

Market Update: February 2017

Recent news and updates related to the ocean and air freight market for the month of February 2017.

Flexport

Ocean Rates

Rates are beginning to come down after the winter holiday and Chinese New Year peaks. Carriers have implemented blank sailings in February in an effort to keep rates from going down, but we still expect them to fall:

  • U.S. West Coast: We anticipate that rates to USWC will fall by a few hundred dollars from pre-Chinese New Year levels.
  • U.S. East Coast: Rates to USEC are holding stronger and, thus far, are remaining at pre-Chinese New Year levels. We expect this to continue through mid-February, at least.

Some carriers announced a February 15 GRI, but we expect that it will be completely mitigated.

The March 1 GRI has been announced at $480 / $600 / $675 / $760 for 20’ / 40’ / 40’HC / 45’ for all cargo from Asia to the U.S. We don’t expect it to be implemented in its entirety, but we will need to see what demand looks like in February, now that Chinese New Year is over, before we know how much it will be mitigated.

Carrier Alliances and Mergers

On April 1,2017, the ocean carrier alliances will shift -- massively:

  • THE Alliance: Hapag-Lloyd, Yang Ming, MOL, NYK, K Line
  • Ocean Alliance: OOCL, CMA CGM, China COSCO Shipping, Evergreen
  • 2M: Maersk, MSC

Hamburg Süd has announced a slot purchase agreement with Maersk, to purchase space on vessels in the 2M alliance. Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) also has a slot purchase agreement with 2M.

MOL, NYK, and K Line will all be in THE Alliance, which should ease the transition when they enter into their joint venture in 2018.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the impact of these new alliances, and we’ll have some thoughts and updates to share soon.

Also happening in April, the Hapag-Lloyd / UASC merger is expected to be complete and official. The merger has been approved by EU and US regulatory bodies, and is pending finalization by the banks. When finalized, this will result in the world’s fifth largest ocean container carrier, with a capacity of about 1.6 million TEU.

The Maersk Line acquisition of Hamburg Süd is still pending regulatory approval.

Other Ocean News

If you’ve been fighting for space on container ships to the Gulf, we have good news: There is now an all-water service from Asia to New Orleans! CMA CGM has begun to call New Orleans on its PEX3 service, with a transit time of 26 days from Busan, and 34 days from Singapore. These are larger ships, with a nominal capacity of 6,000 TEUs.

Air Outlook

Now that we’re past Chinese New Year, air rates have improved and space is much better.

Note: We anticipate a mini peak at the beginning of March, as air carriers prepare for the beginning of Q2.

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