The eastbound trans-Pacific is on the move yet again. Flying in the face of the narrative since mid-2022 dominated by normalizing volumes, congestion, rates and carrier profits, the market since late June has been tightening. As of mid-August spot rates to the U.S. West Coast were up 85% according to S&P Global Platts versus late June. The change has been noted in earnings calls: Hapag-Lloyd CEO Rolf Habben-Jansen told investors on Aug. 10, "When I look at the loadings that we have had over the last 10 weeks, then they are up versus previous year, we also see that there's more cases where we are really full and are getting close to having to roll cargo," he said. "And I think we're not the only ones who see that."
The tightening market has come as a surprise to some while others have been anticipating the inevitable arrival of a tipping point as strengthening bookings collide with carriers' aggressive moves to withdraw short-term capacity.
SeaIntelligence said spot rates on the main East-West trades "are stronger than what could seasonally be expected" suggesting underlying forces of supply and demand at work separate from the peak holiday season.
The market outlook into 2024, when many experts are predicting a return to more normal demand and seasonal patterns, will be explored in depth within the #TPM24 program. Industry and financial analysts as well as C-level carriers and forwarders will be offering independent perspective ahead of 2024-2025 contract negotiations.