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Plunge in container prices could signal market stabilization—report

  • Average container prices eased post the Golden Week after rising to a record high of US$8,516 (40-foot high-cube) and $3,017 (20-foot dry container) in September
  • Average used 40-foot high-cube container prices declined by 23% to $6,594 in October
  • 46 ports globally experienced a moderate pullback in average container prices
  • The hotspots include China, Vietnam, and United states

The average standard container prices in China have plunged both for trading and leasing, signaling the potential stabilization of the container market, according to new data from Container xChange.

“We are experiencing improvement in market situation as the one-way leasing charges, spot rates and other freight costs are starting to stabilize and average standard container prices are witnessing a drop for the first time in many weeks,” said Christian Roeloffs, founder and CEO of Container xChange, the trading and leasing platform for containers.

But while a good sign of market correction, “the drop in prices could also possibly be only a temporary decline because of the Golden Week in China if the prices do not decline further,” he added.

“The easing prices show temporary consolation in the global container shortage crisis. There are possibilities that the trend continues because we are half way through the busiest time for the shipping industry. Retailers are looking to pile up stock ahead of the Christmas holidays and the falling prices could well become the new normal from hereon. This could probably be a very early sign of stabilization of the market,” said CEO Johannes Schlingmeier.

The average trading price of 40-foot high cube containers is falling in China since week 39 just ahead of the Golden week, according to the report. From US$8,516 in week 39, the average prices have plunged to $6,598 in week 42, a 22.5% decline which is the biggest decline witnessed this year in China. The peak has already been touched at $8,576 which was a 52% jump from week 27 (first week of July).

At different ports in China, the average trading prices have declined, ranging from 1% to 11% for 40-foot high cube containers at different ports in China, with Qingdao recording the highest 11% plunge from last month, Ningbo 2%, Shanghai 3.4%, Shenzhen 1.7% and Tianjin 0.5%.

A 20-foot dry container now costs on an average $3,000, which has plateaued since the beginning of September from $3,017. The average prices of a 20-foot dry container have reduced from the last week at Shanghai port (from $3,359 to $,2847), Qingdao port (from $2,982 to $2,794) and at the Ningbo port (from $4,300 to $3,940).

As per the platform data, 46 ports globally experienced a moderate pullback in average container prices. The hotspots include China, Vietnam, and United states. All these price falls indicate improvement in congestion which caused skyrocketing freight costs all over the world, said the report.

The average one-way leasing pickup charges for the China-US stretch are down to $1,800 from $2,767 in one week (from week 39 to week 40), a 35% plunge, the highest recorded this year on this stretch. Similarly, these rates have also reduced for stretches ex-China to a few ports in Europe and Russian Federation.

The average one-way leasing pickup charges have slumped from $3,931 to $3,621, a decline of 8% on the China to UK stretch from week 39 to week 40. Similarly, a 5.4% decline from $3,646 to $3,450 on the China to Belgium stretch was seen during the same period.

While the demand will continue to stay strong as the retailers aim to fill the stock ahead of the Christmas holidays, the all-in rates are expected to stay strong too. The situation is more likely to improve by early November and further after the Chinese New Year in February 2022, the report said.

Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash


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