After a hefty decline in the second half of last year and in the first months of this year, the container shipping market seems to have stabilised or is maybe even showing its first signs of recovery. Whilst the China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI) and the World Container Index (WCI), which are based on both spot and contract rates and therefore by definition lag behind the market developments, are still declining, the spot rate-based Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI) has stabilised at just above 900 points. On the charter market, however, the prices of small vessels are already recovering, although those for the big ships appear not to have reached bottom yet. With regards to bunker prices, also the price for Heavy Fuel Oil is on the rise, whilst the prices for low sulphur varieties are dropping, which effectively means that the price gap is contracting.
In accordance with the new reality and the new container season approaching, carriers put a lot of effort in revising and optimising their networks. Ships have been withdrawn from the main East-West routes (Europe-Far East/Transpacific) and are now used to fill the gaps on the North-South and Intra-regional routes. A remarkable development is going on in the Russian Baltic (St. Petersburg) trade. As freight rates there are still sky high, reportedly five times the rate from the Far East to the rest of Europe), Russian and Chinese niche carrier are jumping into this market with new services using relatively small ships and sailing at irregular frequency.