May 1 isn't the big day it used to be. The traditional starting date for annual contracts between shippers and carriers in the trans-Pacific container trades has lost some of its impact this year, with many negotiations continuing beyond the traditional deadline and into mid- or late May.
Ocean carriers entered negotiations trying to increase their rates from Asia by $285 per FEU to the West Coast, $350 to inland points and $430 per FEU on all-water services to the East Coast. Many shippers resisted paying the full increase, citing increased carrier vessel capacity and uncertainty over the direction of the U.S. economy.
The shipper-carrier impasse began to break in mid-April, with beneficial cargo owners reportedly signing contracts for service to West Coast ports containing a modest general rate increase plus a higher bunker fuel surcharge. East Coast importers using all-water services are also paying higher base rates and an increased Panama Canal surcharge this year to reflect rising canal tolls and reservation fees.