Container prices jump 50% - but why?

In the last year, prices from Asia to California have increased by 50%.  The biggest container lane, Asia to Europe, has seen rates of $969 vs. $695 in 2016 (+40%) and poor container availability out of Europe going east – in the words of one of our clients – has been “problematic.  It's hard to get boxes.” 
 
Why?  Here are some reasons given:
  • Price fixing – the Feds are looking at this…although it is hard to believe that shipping lines would push rates to only $969 when their costs are closer to $1400
  • The 3 big alliances control 90% of all volume
  • Ships have been idled reducing capacity 
  • Operations have slowed for Chinese New Year
  • Repositioning of ships for alliance startup in April
  • Hanjin bankruptcy
I suspect it is all of the above – but an industry can’t lose $5 billion a year and continue as a going concern.
 
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