Peak season surcharges (PSS) will continue to fall in importance in the East-West trades, analyst Drewry claims.
The peak season of 2012 was underwhelming for many container lines, as the usual boost to third quarter revenues failed to materialise and 2013 is looking to yield similar results. US imports “only saw a minor peak in demand during Q3”, Maersk said in its 2012 Annual report.
Typically seen as a stocking up period ahead of the festivals of consumption in the West, Thanksgiving in the US and Christmas in the US and Europe, the impact of the July-Septmeber peak season is waning as the seasonal rise in Westward cargo movements has become less pronounced over the past three years.
According to Drewry’s research, July to September used to account for 27.1% of each year’s traffic from Asia to the US in 2004-2007, which fell to 26.4% last year; Asia to Northern Europe fell from 26.8% to 25.7%, and Asia to the Mediterranean from 26.1% to 24.4%
How much of that change is down to changing consumer and retail trends remains uncertain as the industry is still plagued by overcapacity and is operating in the shadow cast by the upcoming delivery of further 18,000 plus teu ships for the Asia-Europe trades. Despite the world fleet recording healthy deletions of 427,000 teu in the last 12 months, new deliveries hit 1.2m teu according to Alphaliner, outpacing deletions 3 to 1.
On 1 August, MSC has a PSS of $320 per teu from Asia to the US and Puerto Rico, CMA CGM has a $500 per teu PSS for Asia- Northern Europe and Maersk are introducing a $200 per teu PSS for Asia to North and West India and Pakistan.
Compared to the widespread general rate increases (GRI) of 1 July, which added $1,632 per feu to the Asia-Europe trades in a week, it seems GRIs may well be emerging as the go-to means of securing fair freight for cargoes as justifying a PSS for extra capacity and equipment becomes a tougher sell in the face of an eroded peak season.