Cargo Containers Being Shipped For Free

The has a good post on just how extreme the collapse in world trade has become.

Freight rates for containers shipped from Asia to Europe have fallen to zero for the first time since records began, underscoring the dramatic collapse in trade since the world economy buckled in October.

“They have already hit zero,” said Charles de Trenck, a broker at Transport Trackers in Hong Kong. “We have seen trade activity fall off a cliff. Asia-Europe is an unmit­igated disaster.”

Shipping journal Lloyd’s List said brokers in Singapore are now waiving fees for containers travelling from South China, charging only for the minimal “bunker” costs. Container fees from North Asia have dropped $200, taking them below operating cost.

Industry sources said they have never seen rates fall so low. “This is a whole new ball game,” said one trader.

It’s an over used phrase right now but this is very much “canary in the coalmine” type information. Trade data takes time to develop and in the case of some countries may be fudged a bit in order to downplay current circumstances. There is no fudging in these numbers. They depict a very unpleasant spiral and it isn’t upward.

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