Transportation & Logistics Analysis

Container transport: prices and volumes down

July 19 2022

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BAROMETER. FAK rates have fallen below the psychological bar of 5 digits for imports from Asia to Northern Europe for some shipping companies. At the same time, aggressive blank sailings are continuing to be used by companies, much to the discontent of shippers.

June marked a shift from 5-digit to 4-digits FAK rates for Asian imports for some companies. This psychological price pivot is very important. If demand does not rebound quickly, it is likely to be morose for a considerable length of time. If demand wavers and stopover cancellations continue at a steady pace, it could be stabilised. We are really standing at a crossroads.

Exceptional fuel surcharges, which were resurging quite widely at the beginning of summer, could however erase the effects of rate cuts in the coming weeks. This phenomenon is particularly noticeable at the moment for goods leaving Europe raising the fairly low pivotal prices of the "better than empty" concept.

Shipping lines under pressure

At the same time, pressure is increasing on shipping companies in the current inflationary environment.

The returns of CMA CGM, like those of the other French champion Total, have unsurprisingly fuelled the controversy on the taxation of "super-profits", in a tense social context. In his National Day speech on 14 July, French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out a "super-tax" but mentioned a contribution.

It seems particularly unfair to point the finger at CMA CGM, another exemple of a long-term capital industry, after only one year of exceptional profits knowing that the French company has previously experienced decades of difficulties. In addition to this, from Brittany Ferries to Gefco, and also Air France, the company has stepped up to come to the aid of politically and socially sensitive issues. We can consider that these profits have already begun to serve national interests...

Despite this, both Total and CMA CGM have had to accept gestures towards the "general public".  In the name of "showing support for the purchasing power of French households", for its part CMA CGM has announced a €500 reduction per 40' container for imports through French ports made by its customers who are major actors from the retail distribution sector and also for all imports towards French overseas territories. These measures are to come into force on 1st August 2022 for a period of one year.

Over and above the obvious public relations aspect, let's try to analyze the levers contained in the tumultuous announcement of this measure that has seriously upset the small community that is Gallic shipping (...)


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Expert in Ocean shipping for 25 years, Jerome puts all his knowledge of the industry to contribution for Upply. Ship captain at heart, he has written the English-French Lexicon of Containerized Shipping (Paris: CELSE, 2001).
See all its articles