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Carriers Attempt to Raise Rates Amid Poor Asia to US Export Figures

According to statistical data released by US research firm Descartes Datamyne, the volume of seaborne container shipments from Asia to the United States in March was 1,217,509 units (calculated based on 20-foot containers), a decrease of 31.5% compared to the same period last year. The decline was greater than February's (29%), and it marked the eighth consecutive month of contraction and the seventh consecutive month of double-digit decline.

In terms of product categories, the largest category of shipped products, furniture, decreased by 47% compared to the same period last year, which led to a lower overall number. The sharp decline in the volume of furniture shipments is related to long-term inflation that has led to deteriorating consumer sentiment. In addition, the uncertainty in the housing market has also caused demand for furniture products to be weak.

Looking at the regions, among the 10 Asian countries and regions covered in the report's statistics, the volume of seaborne container shipments to the United States from all of them was lower than the previous year. For example, China, which has the highest market share of container shipments from Asia, saw a significant 40% drop in volume in March, marking the seventh consecutive month of double-digit decline and decreasing its market share to 53.1%, the lowest since March 2020. The container shipment volume of ASEAN also fell

Based on information from the market, container lines are set to implement a general rate increase (GRI) in the trans-Pacific trade on April 15, in an attempt to boost rates that have been struggling due to low demand. This GRI, ranging from $600 to $1,200 per FEU, will be a test of the carriers' ability to revive spot rate recovery.

However, past trends have shown that GRIs typically do not have lasting effects in down markets. Over the next three weeks, the success or failure of this GRI will provide insight into what the "new normal" may look like for the trans-Pacific trade. It remains to be seen whether the 2023 Trans-Pacific Contract rate trend will follow the ocean carrier's ideal rate or remain at the same level as 2022 freight rates, given the uncertain outlook for Asia exports to the USA.

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