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A cargo ship is moored in the Port of Long Beach while cranes retrieve cargo containers from the ship

Port of Long Beach. Photo: Richard H Grant / Shutterstock.com

TPM24: Liner Heavyweights Face Tough Transpacific Contract Talks

The Loadstar
Total Views: 1243
March 4, 2024

By Mike Wackett in Long Beach (The Loadstar) –

Some 4,000 container shipping industry attendees are assembling at the Long Beach Convention Center in California for the biggest ever S&P Global TPM24 conference and networking event.

There is a buzz at the Hyatt Regency reception and TPM registration desks as industry partners from North America and the four quarters of the globe meet up and plan their conference sessions, meetings and networking events.

Procurement managers have their c-suite bosses in tow and ocean carriers have their top sales account teams in place, backed up by the arrival of at least two liner CEOs.

Shippers, Carriers Navigate Soaring Rates Heading Into Contract Negotiations

As usual, the focus will be on laying the foundations of agreeing new transpacific contracts commencing in May; however, it remains to be seen how many regular 12-month deals will be done this year.

Indeed, the view ahead of this year’s four-day TPM is that BCOs, NVOCCs and forwarders will be extremely reluctant to agree carrier requests for significant rate increases supported by inflated spot rates.

According to Xeneta’s freight rate benchmarking data, spot rates between Asia and the US west coast have skyrocketed 170% since December, to an average of $4,433 per 40ft, while Asia-US east coast rates have jumped 133%, to an average of $5,778 per 40ft.

However, there has been a slight softening of rates in the past month, by 8% and 7% respectively, for the west and east coasts.

The spike in short-term rates from Asia to the east coast has been driven by Houthi rebel attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, causing Suez Canal loops to be diverted around southern Africa.

However, the big increase in west coast rates is obviously unconnected with the diversions, but is being attributed mainly to a contagion impact of tighter supply and, to some extent, a fear of the current disruption becoming another Ever Given-sized event.

The chatter picked up so far by The Loadstar team at TPM is that carriers will not get the big increases they are hoping for this year, although shippers are showing willing to sign up for “reasonable” annual contract rate uplifts – on the proviso they also get better service to go with the increased charges.

Nevertheless, if shippers consider the carrier rate pitches to be excessive, the likelihood is that the counter parties will agree to disagree and customers will ask for rolling three-month contracts, with a review period built in.

The Loadstar is known at the highest levels of logistics and supply chain management as one of the best sources of influential analysis and commentary.

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