Hapag-Lloyd Container Line, the leading trans-Atlantic carrier, will seek a general rate increase on its services to the U.S. East, West and Gulf coasts as of Feb. 1 and will also reduce capacity on its North American services in 2007.
The German liner said it would seek rate hikes of $200 per TEU and $250 per FEU.
"Freight rates have come under pressure in recent months with the entry of new players into the North Atlantic market," the carrier said in a statement. "Moreover, costs, particularly for charters, bunkering and additional security measures, have risen."
Hapag-Lloyd, the fifth-largest liner in the world, has been one of the most consistently profitable container lines but sunk into the red in the third quarter due to lower freight rates and the cost of integrating CP Ships, and expects to lose at least $125 million in 2006.
In announcing rate increases and service cuts, the Hamburg-based shipping line is following the lead of Maersk Line, which announced similar measures over the weekend, and Mediterranean Shipping Co., which plans to seek rate increases on the trans-Atlantic independent of the Trans-Atlantic Conference Agreement, of which it is a member.
Unlike Maersk, which detailed the two trans-Pacific services it plans to eliminate, Hapag-Lloyd said only that it plans to "rationalize its ship capacities" for North American services next year.
The two carriers characterized the increases as rate restoration but there are doubts whether the new charges will stick as there is plenty of empty cargo space on the North Atlantic with ships reportedly sailing only 70 percent full, well below the levels on the much larger trans-Pacific and Europe-Asia routes where carriers also plan to raise rates in the coming months.
-- with contributions by Bruce Barnard in London