A shortage of shipping containers and essential equipment at Chinese ports, exacerbated by fluctuating international trading environments in the Covid pandemic, has meant inflation in international shipping rates. In November, rates for transporting containers between China and the east coast of the USA increased to $4,750 per container, 42 per cent up on July rates, according to RefinitivEikon data. The cost of shipping from China to the US west coast has increased 50 per cent to $3,878 per container. Europe’s Shanghai Container Freight Index (SCFI) spot rate index has risen sharply, with Northern Europe rates up 21 per cent and Mediterranean rates up 23 per cent, rates that have not been seen since the beginning of 2014. According to Trojan, a tyre marketing agent headquartered in Qingdao, China, shortages have worsened recently. This busy period for Chinese exports could see deficits continue to deepen into the New Year, meaning further price increases.
Shipping plays a vital part in the world of tyre wholesaling. Managing the volatility of freight rates with efficient and transparent service is paramount in maintaining the competitiveness of distribution operations. Maritime Cargo Services, a freight forwarder with significant ties to the UK tyre industry, tells Tyres & Accessoires about the factors affecting the global shipping industry, and how its fluctuations, illustrated by this chart, which shows at a glance the trends of the last 12 months, must be managed effectively to allow tyre wholesalers to operate efficiently.
Considering the increasing price of oil and continuing consolidation in the freight shipping, the slight decrease in freight rates, as shown on the graph, may come as a surprise. Maritime Cargo Services, a key freight forwarding agent in the UK tyre import business, explains…
As August came to its close, the world’s seventh largest – and South Korea’s biggest – container shipping line, Hanjin Shipping, filed for court receivership, consumed by mounting debt schedules with creditors and increasing industry overcapacity. Hanjin had suffered annual net losses from 2011-2014 – with total debt in June reaching a staggering $5.5billion. While there may be hope on the horizon, (Hyundai Merchant Marine are in talks to acquire Hanjin’s vessels and staff), for the time being, ports in China and the US have denied entry to Hanjin ships and goods cannot be unloaded. Discussions between banks and Hanjin are yet to proffer a solution, though it seems likely that its Asia-United States route and related sales and marketing assets could be on sale by the end of the week in order to raise rehabilitation funds, several news sources have reported.
Asia-Europe container transportation rates are currently at a deep low (see graph), but the obvious price benefit to importers of tyres from South-East Asia is mitigated somewhat by volatility in shipping conditions, which affects punctuality and reliability of tyres’ delivery. Shipping lines’ over-estimation of the market potential has led to artificial capacity restrictions used to mitigate over-capacity, and in some cases, cancelled shippings. With these factors fundamental to UK tyre wholesale, Tyres & Accessories asked freight forwarder Maritime Cargo Services partner Rob Shelley about the issues currently at play in this market.
Increases in freight rates during the last quarter of the year happened earlier than expected, according to Maritime Cargo Services’ Rob Shelley. The freight forwarding company said that the market, led by supply and demand, had seen rates harden due to increased demand for shipping space “earlier than expected”. This ahead of schedule peak season combined with “higher than forecast import volumes” to increase both rates – “in some cases by 150 per cent” – and dockside waiting times.
Freight forwarding company, Maritime Cargo Services has made the point that while shipping costs have remained relatively stable in 2014, the past seven years have been marked by volatility. Freight forwarding specialist, Rob Shelley explains: “2008 saw the end of the Asia-Europe box cartel known as the Far Eastern Freight Conference. The FEFC was banned by the EU as it thought it anti-competitive. Its departure came as Asia Europe suffers historically low freight rates. It took with it stability with all the shipping lines in communication with one another.
Sea freight rates are currently on a downward trend that looks likely to continue for the foreseeable future, says freight forwarding specialist Rob Shelley of Maritime Cargo Services. According to industry feedback, this year’s peak season from Asia to Northern Europe got off to a slow start in July, and remained unconvincing even up to the beginning of September. Exports from Asia to Northern Europe in the second quarter were only the same as during the same period last year, and year-on-year growth in the first seven months of 2013 reached just one per cent.
The cost of moving tyres and wheels between Asia and major European markets such as the UK should stabilise in 2013 after the wild fluctuations of 2012, according to the CEO of Suffolk based freight forwarding company Maritime Cargo Services, Rob Shelley. As shippers and shipping lines battled hard on this trade route in particular the cost of moving containers varied greatly over the course of the year, “making costing and budgeting in the tyre industry somewhat challenging,” Shelley says. As fewer goods were imported under economic austerity measures towards the end of 2012, shipping lines reduced capacity accordingly. But with global trade expected to creep upwards again in 2013, Shelley expects shipping rates to rise moderately as shippers control their expansion.
Suffolk-based freight forwarder, Maritime Cargo Services is now one of the UK’s leading freight forwarding specialists in the tyre industry, looking after more than 20 major tyre importers, managing the customs clearance and delivery of containers to well over a hundred tyre warehouses and depots throughout the UK and Ireland. The company is at Brityrex as October's issue of Tyres & Accessories went to print, and with wholesalers looking to implement the best strategy possible to achieve better margins in a stagnant market, the price of shipping is an important consideration. However, as cost and confidence continue to fluctuate, CEO, Rob Shelley suggests that predictability is still far from great.
During the first couple of months of 2012 Belgian firm Deldo has, like others active in the European tyre wholesaling scene, observed that this year may be different – more complicated – than the past couple of years. However the Antwerp-based wholesaler is not unduly concerned; during a recent visit, Deldo’s international sales and marketing manager Rutger Veerman discussed the company’s growth plans for 2012 and beyond.
The world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, has just announced that its container line made a loss of US$537 million last year and is unlikely to turn a profit in 2012. The vast majority of its competitors have posted similar losses and it seems like they have now decreed that enough is enough and across the board rate increases have been announced. And we’re not talking single percentage point increases. Rather rates are said to be almost doubling their previous levels.
Suffolk-based freight forwarder Maritime Cargo Services is one of the UK’s leading independent family-owned freight- forwarding agents, having been founded by CEO Rob Shelley more than 20 years ago. In serving the tyre industry the company provides its services to more than 20 major importers, managing the customs clearance and delivery of containers to well over a hundred tyre warehouses and depots throughout the UK and Ireland. With a wealth of shipping experience and a thorough understanding of the logistical demands of wholesaling, MCS argues that effective freight management is a hugely important consideration for tyre importers in today’s market.
Continuing in our recent series of articles on sea freight, Rob Shelley founder of Maritime Cargo Services, a Suffolk-based freight forwarder explains how the cost of international maritime transportation has eased slightly.
Freight rates have been sliding for some months now and there has been much sabre rattling from the shipping lines talking up rising oil prices and the like and having to redress the balance with “rate restorations” or GRIs (General Rate Increases). However, the reality is that the market is hugely competitive at the moment and that, in the short term at any rate, price increases will be hard to make stick.
It’s customary at this time of year to take a quick look back over our shoulders at what has gone before and perhaps more importantly to make some sort of predictions as to the year ahead. In the latest in our series of perspectives from the shipping industry, Rob Shelley, CEO of Maritime Cargo Services, tells Tyres & Accessories where he sees shipping volumes and extra-slow-steaming going in 2011 and what this means for anyone importing tyres into the UK.