Trans-Pacific spot rates jumped 8.6 percent this week from last week as U.S. importers scrambled to find space on vessels bound for the West Coast as a precaution against a possible East Coast port strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association.
The Drewry benchmark for shipping a 40-foot-equivalent unit container from Hong Kong to Los Angeles climbed to $2,711, the highest level in four weeks and third-highest for the year.
Negotiators for the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance met Wednesday and planned to return Thursday for a second day of negotiations to try to hammer out an agreement before their contract expires Sept. 30.
“In our view, the fears of port closures on the U.S. East Coast 10 days from now are starting to trigger more shipper demand for space to the West Coast from Asia,” said Philip Damas, division director of Drewry Supply Chain Advisors.
“The rate increases could well go much higher if the situation worsens and contingency plans become more widespread,” he said.
The Drewry benchmark declined 8.6 percent during the week of Aug. 20 to $2,496 per FEU and stayed at that level in the weeks since as importers awaited progress on the ILA-USMX negotiations. As the deadline drew nears, however, demand for space increased.
This week’s benchmark rate is 73.7 percent higher than it was in the same week of 2011 and 67.5 percent higher than in the first week of this year, when it was $1,832 per FEU.