In a dynamic landscape of global trade, container freight rates for Indian exports are displaying signs of recovery, with notable increases in the westbound India-Europe trade, India-US trade, and intra-Asia trades originating from India. These developments come as the shipping industry grapples with a multitude of challenges.

Recent data indicates that container rates on the westbound India-Europe route have seen an upswing. Short-term contract rates from West India (including JNPA or Mundra Port) to key European destinations such as Felixstowe/London Gateway (UK) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands) have surged. Rates have climbed to US$550 per 20-foot container and US$650 per 40-foot container, up from US$525 and US$600, respectively, recorded at the end of July.

Similarly, contract rates for West India-Genoa (in the West Mediterranean) have also experienced an upward trend. August contract rates have reached US$675 per TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and US$650 per FEU (forty-foot equivalent unit), compared to US$650 and US$600, respectively.

The India-US trade routes have not been immune to these fluctuations. Thanks to a wave of general rate increase (GRI) attempts by major carriers, average rates in August for shipments from West India (specifically Nhava Sheva/Mundra) to the US East Coast (New York) have escalated to US$1,875 per TEU, up from US$1,500, and US$2,050 per FEU, up from US$1,800. Rates for Indian container loads headed to the US West Coast (Los Angeles) have remained relatively stable, hovering at US$1,600 per TEU and US$1,700 per FEU.

Despite these positive indicators, several factors continue to weigh on the container freight rate recovery:

  1. Slumping Indian Export Volumes: Indian exports have seen a decline, posing a challenge to the sustainability of rate recovery efforts.
  2. Ongoing Geopolitical Tensions: Geopolitical events, including the Russia-Ukraine war, have introduced uncertainties and complexities into global trade.
  3. Monetary Tightening: Central banks around the world have implemented monetary tightening measures, impacting economic stability.

The article concludes with a glimpse of hope, foreseeing a potential rebound in the pace of Indian exports in the coming months, driven by fresh orders associated with the upcoming holiday season. However, it is also emphasized that the overall outlook for container freight rates remains uncertain, particularly in light of the persisting global challenges.

Major carriers such as Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), CMA CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd have planned further rounds of GRIs for India-US cargo, scheduled to take effect in early September. As the industry navigates through these fluctuations, stakeholders will remain watchful, adapting to the evolving trade landscape.