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Container Shipping Rates Guide [Updated 2023]

April 24, 2023

shipping containers

Monitoring trends in shipping rates is key for businesses across every industry. Knowing the developments in pricing changes, as well as forecasted trends for the seasons ahead, will help you plan accordingly for your organization. Review recent trends and general factors that can affect your shipping expenses across 2023.

Current Container Shipping Rates & Costs

Shipping rates vary over time due to a wide range of different factors. In the wake of the supply chain crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies saw significant spikes in shipping costs, as well as significant delays. However, 2023 has seen a downward trend in shipping prices. The Drewry composite World Container Index saw the shipping rate for a 40-foot container drop to $1,859.28 as of March 2, 2023. This is a continued drop from the approximately $2,000 per 40-foot box on February 10, 2023, and a very significant decrease from the rate a year ago of approximately $9,300.

This trend is mirrored around the world and highlights the sharp drop in shipping prices since the end of 2021. The shipping routes from the Far East to North America and from the Far East to Northern Europe, as measured by Xeneta, decreased by nearly 80% across 2022.

However, contract shipping rates saw continued fluctuation rather than a simple linear decrease due to factors such as seasonal retail trends. Some routes even saw doubled contract shipping rates while spot shipping rates were down across the globe.

How Are Container Shipping Costs Calculated?

Shipping companies calculate container shipping costs based on three key factors: the origin of the cargo, the destination of the cargo, and the details of the cargo itself. Freight services consider the type of materials (with special requirements for potentially hazardous or particularly fragile cargo), the dimensional weight and density, and more.

Also, variable factors can increase or decrease the cost of shipping. Some of the most impactful variable factors are:

  • Shipping route: The length of the route, the number (and relationship) of the countries it passes through, as well as the type of transportation all contribute to the total price calculations.
  • Container size: Container sizes are generally standardized, and larger containers will cost more to ship than smaller ones. However, the weight of the shipment will also affect the cost.
  • Supply and demand: During periods of heavy demand, such as during the holiday retail season, freight costs will rise. The pricing for expedited shipping or shipping by guaranteed deadlines will also be more expensive during high-demand periods.
  • Weather conditions: Hurricanes, heavy storms, and snow storms can all complicate the expected route and timeline of shipped goods. Shipping services with a guaranteed delivery date can become more expensive during these events.

Understanding FCL/LCL and How It Affects Freight Costs

Just like domestic shipping options via truck allow companies to ship by the truckload or by less than truckload (LTL), shipping containers offer two options: full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL). Renting a whole container can be cost-effective if you need the entire container’s space for your cargo. However, it can be cost-prohibitive to have an entire shipping container and not fill the entire space. In these circumstances, LCL shipping, which allows you to ‘share’ the space with other companies ordering shipping services, reduces the total rate of the shipment.

Get the Best Shipping Rates at IPS

At International Product Solutions, we partner with multiple forwarders and freight shipping service providers to offer our clients the ideal shipping rates for any type of cargo load during any season of the year. We work with highly rated service providers so you can find the most cost-effective arrangement and have peace of mind. Get competitive pricing with our partner forwarders and hundreds of our partner factories, and enjoy hands-off shipping management with our turnkey services and logistics support.

Contact Our Experts Today

Stay on top of shifting shipping rates and supply chain management with the experts at IPS. We’re here to help your organization streamline its logistics and shipping operations.

Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.