Contract prices on the main global east-west container trades begin to follow spot prices downwards, although Asia-US and Asia-Europe contract prices remain more than double their level last year, Xeneta figures confirm By Will Waters Long-term ocean freight rates on the main global east-west container trades have experienced their first month-on-month fall since January, according to the latest analysis by digital rates specialist Xeneta, although Asia-US and Asia-Europe contract prices remain more than double their level last year. As demand and spot rates soften and congestion-related capacity constraints continue to ease, Xeneta’s global XSI index slid to 448.3 in September, falling by 1.1%, the index’s first drop since January and one of only three declines in the past 21 months. However, Xeneta expects the fall “won’t be the last, with market fundamentals suggesting that the ‘halcyon days’ of ever-increasing rates for carriers may be drawing to a close”. Xeneta CEO Patrik Berglund commented: “It had to happen sooner or later. We’ve seen a steady, and at times spectacular, uptick of long-term contracted rates since the early days of the pandemic. This has fuelled record-breaking carrier profits, much to the dismay of a financially stressed shipper community. But, over the past couple of months, clear signs of a market shift have emerged.” Regional trends The XSI index for US imports followed the global trend, though it fell slightly less, down by 0.7%, month on month, to 561.7 points in September. Compared to September 2021, the index is still up by 179.7%. This is despite spot rates on the major trades into the US from the Far East now being down significantly from their levels at this time last year, Xeneta highlighted. The index for European imports fell to 388.5 index points in September, down by 1.7% from August. But similarly, this slight fall “has not been able to affect, in any meaningful way yet, the year-on-year increase shippers are seeing on their long-term contracts, which is still up by 123.7% from September 2021”, Xeneta noted. In line with the fall in the sub-indices for Europe and US imports, the XSI subindex for Far East Exports has fallen by 1.2% month-on-month, down to 627.3 points. September is the first month since April that the index is less than twice as high as it was in January 2022 and is now up by 93.6% since the start of the year. Xeneta’s XSI is compiled from crowd-sourced ocean freight rate data aggregated worldwide. Companies participating in the benchmarking and market analytics platform include names such as ABB, Electrolux, Continental, Unilever, Nestle, L'Oréal, Thyssenkrupp, Volvo Group and John Deere, among others.