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Trans-Pacific shipping rates just popped to new all-time high
American Shipper
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Is this the 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.

One theory is that liners declined to ge higher base spot rates after a meeting with Chinese regulators in mid-September. Actual rates continued to increase when including premium ges, 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.

Rates up to both coasts
According to the Index, Asia-West Coast rates rose to a fresh all-time high. Rates are now triple what they were one year ago.

Rates also just jumped on the Asia-East Coast route . Rates in this trade lane are now double what they were one year ago.

‘Tacit agreement’ coming to an ?

According to Judah Levine, research lead at the Freightos Group, “Still-surging demand for ocean freight and the resulting global equipment shortage pushed rates up across most of the major ex-Asia lanes this week, after what seemed like a slowing in upward pressure last week.

“Most surprisingly, rates on both trans-Pacific lanes climbed significantly for the first time since mid-September, perhaps signaling that carriers’ tacit agreement with Chinese regulators not to increase prices on these lanes may be coming to an ,” Levine speculated.

No letup in sight
The stage appears set for continued ultra-high rates in January.

After adding surges in mid-December, a number of carriers are scheduled to implement general rate increases (GRIs) starting Friday, according to notices posted through Distribution Publications.

Southern California pileup
Meanwhile, it’s busy as ever at Southern California ports.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported 24 container ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay on Monday. Five more were due to arrive and four were due to leave anchorage for berths at the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach. The Marine Exchange reported that regular anchorages are full and several of the contingency anchorages are also occupied.

A map from MarineTraffic using Automated Identification System (ship positioning) data reveals the extent of the container-ship pileup in San Pedro Bay. The situation has not improved over recent weeks — if anything, it appears to have worsened.

It’s the same story on the terminal side of the equation. The Port of Los Angeles provides visibility via its daily data from The Signal. In recent months, this data has shown that congestion appears to be continually pushing significant volumes from one week to the next.

As of Tuesday, the port was projecting imports of 116,501 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the current holiday week. Manifest data for the first half of January shows considerably higher volumes topping 150,000 TEUs per week.

Put it all together — the port stats, the ships at anchorage, the proposed GRI schedule — and it raises the question: Is the recent liftoff from the rate plateau just a blip or is it a sign of things to come?

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