US import spike set to run into summer as west coast ports struggle

Container freight and charter markets are continuing to boom post-Chinese New Year, and analysts expect favourable conditions for carriers and shipowners to last at least into the second half.

“Unseasonal strength in container volumes and port congestion have buoyed freight markets, while in the time-charter markets, demand for vessels has outstripped wider growth in container trade, conditions that are expected to endure at least into H2 21,” says the latest sector report from Maritime Strategies International (MSI).

While container spot rates stubbornly remain at record highs, containership time-charter indices have reached their highest levels for over a decade.

Notwithstanding the strong demand on the Asia-Europe tradelane, it is the transpacific that is leading the charge. MSI’s containership analyst, Daniel Richards, expects the surge on the route to continue into Q2, “due to back orders accumulated over the lunar new year, as well as a fresh round of stimulus payments”.

“US demand for goods from the Far East continues to be the root cause of wider market dislocations and shortages of equipment and vessels,” says the MSI report.

Meanwhile, Niels Madsen, VP of product and operations at SeaIntelligence, suggests that the boom in US sales could “sustain a strong US import container growth through all of 2021”.

He said: “We have never, in the 28 years of data, seen the relative inventory level for retailers as low and, despite six months of demand boom, there is still quite a distance to the past low points of inventories.”

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Source: The Loadstar