Turnaround in sight?
The Shanghai Export Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) and its fellow indices have faced competition from the Valencia Containerised Freight Index (VCFI) since 2018. The port of Valencia did well with exports to the Middle East, North Africa and the Far East of late.
The RWI / ISL’s container throughput data for December, analysed by the Leibniz institute for economic research (see ITJ Daily of 1 February 2021), is one of the reports that has shown that maritime shipping demand has bottomed out, after several months of strong growth. For the first few weeks of 2021, the Shanghai Export Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) reported similar developments for freight rates. According to Alphaliner demand remained high, despite this turnaround at the beginning of the year, which is also reflected in a low figure for laid-up vessels. On 4 January this figure had stood at 1.3% of the active fleet; by 18 January it had fallen to 1% (315,000 teu).
A strong start to 2021
The Valencia Containerised Freight Index (VCFI) started the year with growth of 10.4% vis-à-vis H2 / 2020. In January, all of the regions analysed by the index registered a rise in the freight rates. For the Western Mediterranean it stood at 3.1% and for the Far East at 4.2%. Thus the VCFI, created by the Valencia port authority in 2018 to reflect the development of maritime shipping rates, reached 1,571.3 points – a rise of 57,1% since 2018.
The regions assessed by the VCFI registered growth vis-à-vis the previous month for the first time since 2018. A strong rise in freight rates for transport routes to the Baltic region (+21.2%) was particularly striking, as were increases on routes across the Atlantic Ocean (+10.4%).
The freight rates towards the Middle East (+13.5%) and India (+6.4%) also rose. In this field, H2 / 2020 saw particularly strong export traffic from the port of Valencia. The rise in freight rates for goods transport to and from the USA and Canada was also substantial (+8.2%), even though exports from Valencia to these markets have been declining since October.
Western Mediterranean, Far East
The VCFI’s sub-index for the Western Mediterranean region rose by 3.1% in January, coming in at 1,150.1 points. Intensified exports from Valencia to Morocco, and stable trade relations with Algeria, resulted in the freight rates rising in last two months.
The VCFI’s sub-index for the Far East, in turn, again registered some growth (+4.2%). It has thus registered a steady upwards trend for six months in succession now. Since January 2018 the VCFI has registered growth of no less than 188.1% for this region. From October 2020 onwards, exports through Valencia to the Far East grew steadily, right through to the end of the year.
Festivities for the Chinese new year in February were expected to further increase global export streams to China, which would have then put additional pressure on freight rates.