UN warns of impact of container freight rate rise

The UN trade agency has warned that the current surge in container freight rates could increase global import price levels by nearly 11 percent by 2023 and affect the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, has published a report titled "Review of Maritime Transport 2021."

The volume of goods transported from China and Southeast Asian nations to Europe and the United States has been growing rapidly as economic activities resume.

The report says container freight rates have been going up since the second half of 2020. It also points out that port congestion due to container and labor shortages has been causing transport delays.
The report estimates that the current surge in container freight rates, if sustained, could push up global import price levels by 10.6 percent and consumer price levels by 1.5 percent, between now and 2023.

The report says small, developing island countries that depend for their merchandise imports primarily on maritime transport will be hit the hardest and could see import price levels increase by 24.2 percent.

UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan warns, "The current surge in freight rates will have a profound impact on trade and undermine socioeconomic recovery, especially in developing countries, until maritime shipping operations return to normal."

UNCTAD says stakeholders along the maritime supply chain including carriers, ports, and shippers should work together to share information and make maritime transport more efficient.