Elevated rates for shipping containers show first signs of easing

Author: Adam Yanelli

2021/04/02

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Elevated rates for shipping containers have begun to ease, according to market participants from various regions, but remain well above levels seen prior to the pandemic.

The global shortage of shipping containers has led to some importers paying three times more than normal, especially for deliveries from Asia to Latin American countries.

Higher costs for containers were brought on by the extreme high demand for goods from China during the pandemic, as consumers have been buying products instead of visiting restaurants, travelling or attending events.

Most chemicals are liquids and are moved in tankers, but container ships move polymers such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which are shipped in pellets.

Traders in Europe, where the spike in prices was less drastic, told ICIS they have seen rates for containers fall by about $400-700, with another trader saying they are certainly seeing more availability and are being quoted lower prices for April.

A third trader in Europe said container rates are currently averaging around $3,000-3,500 per container.

Containers from Asia to South America were heard this week around $7,200/container, and $6,750/container from Singapore to South America. In February they were around $9,000, including some as high as $12,000.

A plastic resin distributor based in Canada said it has not seen any significant decrease.

“There was some availability for space this week here and there from Europe and Brazil, but not from China, South Korea, Singapore or Vietnam,” the distributor said.

In February, the distributor saw rates from Vietnam to Toronto at $6,000/container, where a typical range before the pandemic would be about $2,200-2,400/container.

Participants in the polymers markets said they have seen container rates fall to $5,000-6,000/container this month, down from $9,000-10,000/container in February. Container rates were around $2,000 before the pandemic.

Additional reporting by Luly Stephens, Caroline Murray, Zachary Moore and Renato Frimm

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