Trans-Pacific Trade

Trans-Pacific Trade

The trans-Pacific ocean shipping market is by far North America’s largest trade lane, accounting for nearly 20 million 20-foot-equivalent container units in the U.S. trade alone in 2012.

The market is dominated by imports by large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s, which, unlike in other markets, tend to contract directly with ocean carriers rather than through forwarders, as is typically the case in the Asia-Europe market. As a result of the one-year contracts that retailers and other large shippers typically sign as of May 1 each year, freight rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade tend to be less volatile than in Asia-Europe.

Key developments in the trans-Pacific include the approaching 2015 expansion of the Panama Canal and its potentially huge impact on routing of Asia goods into North America, Canadian West Coast ports’ growing success in attracting U.S.-bound cargo, and West Coast ports’ expected response to these competitive challenges.

Exports moving to those markets typically are lower-value commodities such as wastepaper and scrap that keep China’s manufacturing and packaging industries humming.

Special Coverage

The results of the 2014-15 service contracting season in the eastbound Pacific are in, and from the perspective of ocean carriers, they’re not pretty.

News & Analysis

Hapag-Lloyd containers
17 Aug 2014
Even with sustained growth in volumes across all major trade lanes, Hapag-Lloyd’s loss widened in the first half of 2014, in large part because of falling and volatile freight rates.
The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index for northern Europe ports fell 7.8 percent this week.
08 Aug 2014
Spot rates from Asia to northern Europe continued a trend of peaks and valleys this week, giving up nearly half of pricing gains achieved around Aug. 1 general rate increases.
30 Jul 2014
Expectations of a solid peak season from Asia to both Europe and North America could lead to higher ocean container freight rates in the third quarter, but the gains are likely to be only temporary.
Drewry’s benchmark spot rate from Hong Kong to Los Angeles remained at $1,800 per 40-foot container for a second week.
30 Jul 2014
In a now familiar pattern, trans-Pacific spot prices held steady ahead of another general rate increase after dropping precipitously the week before.
The Shanghai-northern Europe spot rate slipped 2.2 percent to $1,203.
25 Jul 2014
Price drops continued to be reflected in the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index this week, as every major lane on the index saw spot rates fall.
The Drewry benchmark spot rate from Hong Kong to Los Angeles dropped $100 this week to $1,800 per FEU.
23 Jul 2014
With another week left before carriers in the trans-Pacific lanes attempt a general rate increase of $600 per 40-foot container, spot rates from Asia to the U.S. West Coast dropped once again.

Commentary

If there’s a theme to this year’s TPM Conference, it’s that 2014 is the year of the game-changer in international logistics. The changes the industry is grappling with as we congregate in Long Beach this week are profound and will define the main challenges confronting shippers, carriers, third-party logistics providers and others possibly for years.

Video

William Rooney, Kuehne + Nagel vice president, responds to questions about the current slower growth environment and the NVO ability to provide “something broader than rates” as the trans-Pacific trade evolves.
Stephane Rambaud, senior vice president at C.H. Robinson, discusses the integration of Phoenix International, which the logistics firm acquired in 2012, the company's consolidation services, and the challenges of volatility in the trans-Pacific trade.
Steven Cernak, chief executive and port director of Port Everglades, and James Hertwig, president of Florida East Coast Railway, discuss their organizations’ recent performance, their partnership in a new intermodal container transfer facility, and the opportunities they see and projects they are pursuing for further growth.