Container shipping spot rates on the Asia-Europe trade soared in the early part of the year, rising nearly fourfold from December to early May before starting to fall again. According to Drewry analyst Martin Dixon, carriers focused on rate recovery in an attempt to restore profitability. To support these initiatives, carriers withdrew capacity on the trade by around 11% quarteron- quarter through the course of the first quarter through service suspensions and vessel lay ups. The combination enabled them to force spot rates up to profitable levels. By early May, the World Container Index assessed by Drewry for the trade from Shanghai to Rotterdam had risen above the high recorded in March 2010, when rates last peaked.

However, spot rates have fallen 17% because of poor demand growth, economic volatility and the launch of new services.

Air freight has also declined, and Drewry expects both air and container rates to soften further.