Maersk Line sought to play down its decision to postpone until June 15 a peak-season surcharge in the Asia-Europe trade.
It’s “not uncommon that a general rate increase/surcharge is postponed or moved forward based on market reactions/developments,” a spokesman for the Danish carrier said.
The delay in effecting the $350-per-TEU surcharge, which was to start June 1, has fueled fears of a flat peak season as cash-strapped eurozone nations reduce their imports from China.
Rival carriers have also postponed peak-season surcharges amid slowing growth in the westbound trade out of Asia that has reversed the sharp rise in spot freight rates since the beginning of the year as carriers successfully pushed through four consecutive monthly general rate hikes.
Spot rates from Shanghai to Rotterdam have fallen 15 percent in the past month to $3,295 per 40-foot container, according to the World Container Index published by Drewry and Cleartrade.
Despite slowing trade, carriers still plan to raise rates through the year, supported by capacity cuts if necessary, to return to profit after posting heavy losses in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012.
Hapag-Lloyd, for example, has announced a $500 per 20-foot container general rate increase for July 1. The German carrier, which lost $172 million in the first quarter, said its performance in the peak season will determine whether it can meet its target of making a profit in the full year.
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