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Despite months of softening on the backhaul North Europe to Far East trade, with rates on the spot market closing in on USD 1 000 per FEU for normal-dry containers, spot rates for reefer containers on this trade have been stable since early 2021, averaging USD 5 300 per 40’ reefer on 11 April.

The long-term market, on the other hand, has shown its first signs of easing this year, dropping between Q1 and Q2, though only by USD 200 per reefer, still leaving the average long-term contract signed within the past three months at USD 4 300 per 40’ reefer, close to double what they were in 2019.

” src=”cid:18022b224525b006a3″ alt=”image (21)” align=”left” hspace=”12″ class=”Apple-web-attachment Singleton” style=”width: 6in; height: 4.1458in;”>North Europe to Far East trade is a backhaul trade when looking at total container volumes, but when it comes to reefer containers only, this eastbound trade is the busier of the two, with around twice as many reefer cargoes going from North Europe to the Far East compared to the other way.

In the second half of 2021, the average premium on this trade for reefers compared to dry containers was USD 1 700 on the spot market and USD 1 600 on the long-term market. Both premiums have more than doubled, averaging USD 4 200 on the spot and USD 3 200 on the long-term market so far in April.

The rising prices for reefer compared to dry containers has little to do with underlying demand, as this has fallen year-on-year for both container types so far in 2022. Pushing reefer rates up is an equipment shortage, with many shippers struggling to get hold of the containers they need.

Reefer containers returning from the Far East have to compete with dry containers paying the same spot rates, making the more complex reefer boxes less attractive to carriers.

On both the short and long-term markets, rates for reefer containers are currently lower than those for dry containers: USD 150 on the short and USD 1 100 per container on the long-term market.