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W. Coast exporters fend off freight hikes

Keywords: Tags  scrap, scrap exports, freight rates, West Coast exporters, scrap exporters, ferrous scrap, scrap metals, plastic scrap waste paper

NEW YORK — West Coast exporters have successfully fought off proposed increases in containerized freight prices, which depending on size threatened to rise by as much as $200 per container in April.

Weaker export volumes due to poor demand for several export commodities—including scrap metals, waste paper and plastic scrap—helped exporters stave off the general rate increases proposed by several shipping companies, according to market participants.

Shipping companies initially proposed to increase rates by $100 for 20-foot containers and $200 for 40-foot containers by April 1. This week, scrap metal exporters told AMM that final negotiations with different shipping lines resulted in no increases, barring a few that reported much lower increases on some routes.

"The container freight increases have been negotiated. Most saw no increase, with some up-to-$25 increases—none in the $150 to $200 range, as originally proposed," one exporter said, adding that there was no support in the demand/supply ratio or the price of fuel for shipping companies that would substantiate the initial proposed increases.

"The proposed increases always start high and, in most cases, settle sideways to moderate increases," he said. "There are also multiple players in this scenario, not just one carrier. Different companies and different routes settle out differently."

The proposed increases failed to materialize because of weak export markets, a second exporter said. "All three major export recyclable commodities are in a downtrend," he said.

The market for plastic scrap exports has struggled since China cracked down on its waste imports and started examining containers, while waste paper export volumes to China have also dropped recently, he said.

"In metal scrap, both copper and ferrous demand has been very slow," he added.

In the containerized ferrous scrap market, prices for an 80/20 mix of No. 1 and No. 2 heavy melt dropped $10 per tonne this week to $360 c.f.r. Taiwan amid little demand, the second exporter said.

"Therefore, the (rate increases) didn’t materialize," he said. "Several shipping lines kept things even into April, and one line dropped $10 (per tonne). All in all, (it’s) even."

Rates failed to increase this month because container import business has also been "very slow," a third exporter confirmed.

"They could not raise any freight rates, and took out many large container ships and docked them. (They are) having trouble getting containers at Long Beach (Calif.) since they have a shortage," he said.

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