Rates and demand are rising earlier and more sharply as the peak season for U.S. importing draws near. Peak season surcharges (PSSs) for this year are not just arriving earlier than in past years, but they are also substantially higher. A month or so ahead of schedule, carriers are enacting these surcharges; some are charging PSSs of up to $2,000 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU), which is more than twice the standard cost. This change is explained by the trade routes’ capacity limitations, which are made worse by continuous disruptions and an increase in demand.

Premature and Increased Peak Season Fees

In the past, PSSs (Peak Season Surcharges) would start off small in July and increase or decrease in accordance with market conditions. On the other hand, starting of June 1 of this year, ocean carriers have begun charging extra. After the initial PSSs of $600 per FEU on June 1, there were extra fees of $400 on June 15, and by July 1, there were expected to be even greater surcharges. The unusual market conditions that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are reflected in the unusual early commencement and sharp increase of surcharges.

The Effects of Negotiations and Fixed-Rate Shipments

PSSs mostly impact non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs) or fixed-rate shipments covered by yearly service agreements between importers and carriers. Spot pricing have increased to above $6,000 per FEU, putting pressure on these contracts, which were signed in May at rates ranging from $1,500 to $1,700 per FEU to the West Coast. Carriers are employing PSSs to close the gap between contract rates and current market rates since they have locked in rates at lower price points. As the effective dates get near, importers and carriers frequently work out a compromise in the ongoing dynamic negotiation of these levies.

Limited Capacity and Booking Issues

Due to limited capacity in the eastbound trans-Pacific commerce, importers are now required to schedule shipments at least four weeks in advance, as opposed to the customary one to two weeks. The unpredictability of future PSS quantities exacerbates this predicament. A fine balancing act is performed by importers when they negotiate PSS pricing and make sure they have enough vessel room for their shipments.

Market Disruptions and Capacity Constraints

The present capacity limitations are caused by multiple sources. In order to escape Houthi militant strikes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, ships have diverted their course across southern Africa, resulting in longer routes and significant capacity consumption. Moreover, carriers are rerouting more ships to the Asia-Europe trades, where freight rates are greater, as a result of congestion in Asian ports, which has led to blanked sailings and delayed services. The COVID-19 pandemic-related suspension of the required drydocking of boats for maintenance is contributing to the constrained capacity as well.

Increases in General Rates and Spot Rates (GRIs)

Trans-Pacific carriers have successfully applied multiple GRIs to freight all-kinds (FAK) shipments and spot prices. The rate from Asia to the US West Coast increased from $4,000 per FEU in early May to over $7,000 by mid-June as a result of these changes. For the US East Coast, comparable patterns are noted. These GRIs are likely to stay in place and maintain high spot rates because of the market’s ongoing strength.

Prospects for the Long Run and Importer Approaches

On the duration of the current state of affairs, there is no apparent agreement. However, it appears that importers will have to deal with higher freight rates and surcharges at least through the Golden Week in early October because to the continued diversions and capacity limitations. Importers should make reservations in advance, think about using several carriers, and be adaptable with their shipment schedules.

The Value of Having Good Connections with Freight Forwarders

It is crucial to keep solid working relationships with freight forwarders in spite of these difficulties. In a tight market, a trustworthy forwarder can obtain space, negotiate better terms, and offer insightful advice. These connections are even more important at the busiest time of year since forwarders can guide you through the intricacies of surcharges, capacity constraints, and booking tactics. Creating and sustaining these alliances can guarantee smoother logistics operations and greatly reduce importers’ burden.

In conclusion, due to limited capacity and rising demand, international shipping is going through an uncommon peak season with early and high surcharges. To successfully traverse these volatile times, importers must adjust by making reservations in advance, negotiating skillfully, and utilizing strong relationships with freight forwarders.

Contact Us


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *