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Pacific Container Lines At 85% Of Capacity

Container lines said forward bookings suggest an earlier peak for spring shipments based on the timing of the Lunar New Year. The new year begins January 29th, 10 full days ahead of the 2005 holiday. Asian factories typically close for a week during the holiday.

Albert A. Pierce, the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) executive director, noted, “We’re continuing to see post-holiday sale and fulfillment cargo moving, taking us into a slight Lunar New Year dip and then the first spring shipments.” “Overall,” he continued, we see a very healthy market in the year ahead.”

The transpacific trades have seen four years of record volumes and mostly double-digit growth. Though final figures for 2005 were not yet compiled, the TSA estimated container cargo from Asia to the U.S. grew 11% for the year.

Pierce called the situation “stable,” given that infrastructure constraints on new, larger ships entering the Asia-U.S. market, port channel depths, terminal yard operations and inland rail delays kept capacity in line with demand. Operating cost pressures held freight rates steady, he continued.

Earlier, the TSA had said quarterly adjustments to bunker surcharges scheduled for January 1, 2006, would bring the charge to $590 per 40-foot container. One reason given is the record high prices carriers paid in nine key global loading points during the 13-week calculation period (August 26 to November 23).

The Transpacific Stabilization Agreement adjusts its bunker fuel surcharge according to a weighted average formula that tracks weekly marine fuel prices against member lines’ loading and consumption patterns across Agreement trade lanes, said TSA.

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