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

Unless something changes dramatically, container lines risk a repeat of the brutal 2015 to 2016 contracting season; deepening industry losses are set to approach $10 billion this year alone.

News & Analysis

09 Nov 2016
US importers of containerized goods from Asia should expect to pay more for their 2016-2017 contracts and be prepared to say goodbye to giveaways, such as free detention and chassis, said the head of a discussion group of container lines on Wednesday.
26 Jul 2015
Intra-Asia container shipping is swelling as manufacturing shifts from China to lower-cost countries, and may represent 25 percent of global container trade. In a global context, however, the trade is a 'blind spot' where accurate data and forecasts are hard to come by.
10 Jul 2015
U.S.-Asia containerized ocean trade increased 2.1 percent to nearly 20.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units in the 12 months ending March 31 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to data from PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Maritime & Trade.
04 May 2015
Trans-Pacific ocean carriers have been digging in their heels to get rate increases in their 2014-2015 trans-Pacific ocean contracts and have been getting increases in some cases, especially on routes from Asia to East Coast ports. But rates negotiated for shipments from Asia to West Coast ports have been flat or lower than last year in some cases when bunker fuel surcharges are included in the rate.
04 May 2015
Noting what could be the “new normal” at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Marine Exchange of Southern California said Monday there were no container ships at anchor, and none are expected to stop at anchor on Tuesday, either.
02 May 2015
A deeper channel and additional berths will help South Korea's Busan Port Authority keep up with rising container volumes and bigger box ships.

Commentary

Rates in the trans-Pacific eastbound trade from Asia to North America are starting to resemble the paltry Asia-Europe and trans-Pacific westbound numbers. Within a couple weeks, we may have three-digit numbers for spot rates for 40-foot containers moving from China-based ports to Los Angeles and Long Beach. I can’t recall seeing rates this low in my 42 years in the business.