NEW YORK — Ocean carriers shipping goods from Asia are getting most but not all of the rate increases they had proposed heading into negotiations with importers.
A spokesman for the 13 carriers that participate in the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement said that talks for next year’s contracts with importers were 90 percent complete, and that the remainder should be finished by the end of the month.
“The rate hikes did not come through as announced,” said Hubert Wiesenmaier, executive director of the American Import Shippers’ Association, a trade group that negotiates freight rates on behalf of an estimated 200 small to mid-size corporate members.
“Certain trade lanes where the vessels are full, the carriers managed to get modest rate increases. In other trade lanes, they had to be very flexible.”
Actual rates were not disclosed, largely because each importer negotiates its own rates with freight carriers, using the TSA as a guideline.
Heading into negotiations in mid-April, the TSA recommended a $285 increase on each standard 40-foot container, known as a FEU, shipped from Asia to the West Coast.
For shipments moving on from the West Coast to inland locations via road or rail, the carriers sought an increase of $350 per FEU. On shipments from Asia to the East Coast, which requires passing through either the Panama or Suez Canals, shippers sought an increase of $430 per FEU.
“Carriers had greater luck passing on cost increases they incur from third parties other than just increasing their own rates,” said Wiesenmaier. “There was more understanding on things like bunker fuel than just general increased costs.”
Carriers don’t disclose their base charges publicly, but studies have shown that the cost of shipping a container across the Pacific is $1,500 to $2,000.
Peak season charges may still put the pinch on importers.
“Peak season generally has been extended by a month,” said Wiesenmaier.
Heading into negotiations, the TSA had recommended a $400 increase on containers arriving between June 15 and Nov. 30. However, this year’s suggested increases were lower than in years past.
In 2003, the TSA asked for a $450 increase on FEUs shipped from Asia to the West Coast and asked for increases as high as $900 on other routes.
In justifying this year’s increases, the TSA pointed to an expected surge in shipments from Asia to the U.S., which is projected to grow by 10 to 12 percent this year to a total of 5.8 million FEUs. Rapid growth has already caused backups at West Coast ports over the past two years.
The members of the TSA are American President Lines, CMA-CGM, COSCO Container Lines, Evergreen Margin Corp., Hanjin Shipping Co., Hapag Lloyd Container Line, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Orient Overseas Container Line, P&O Nedlloyd and Yang Ming Marine.