In this edition of “SONAR Indices & Insights,” the SONAR team showcases another index found within SONAR, the freight forecasting platform from FreightWaves. This week, learn how freight market participants are monitoring spot ocean freight rates of 40-foot containers in seven major maritime shipping lanes using the Drewry World Container Index (WCI).  With this SONAR index, freight parties who are interested in the cost to procure space on an ocean container on the spot market. In this article, you learn what both the Drewry WCI and the Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index are, what freight parties can do with both Drewry indices, and what the Drewry indices indicate to various freight market participants about the spot ocean freight rates and ocean container trade volumes. 

What are the Drewry indices?

There are two available Drewry indices that monitor ocean freight rates and volumes. They slightly differ in what they monitor and they each provide freight market participants using SONAR the following: 

Drewry World Container Index (WCI)

The Drewry World Container Index (WCI) measures the bi-weekly ocean freight rate movements of 40-foot containers in seven major maritime lanes. It is expressed as an average price per 40-foot container (in US$). There is also a global price that is an average across all seven lanes.

ocean freight rates Drewry World Container Index

The SONAR chart above shows the global composite index of all of the 7 ports that the WCI monitors. You can see that the prices increased for ocean freight rates at the end of 2020 during the busier holiday season and in anticipation of Chinese New Year and Golden Week, which are traditionally high ocean container volume periods.

SONAR subscribers may also use the tree-chart functionality in SONAR to get a dashboard-like view of the Drewry WCI:


In the TreeMap above, SONAR users can view the Drewry World Container Index across each of the seven major maritime lanes, and the percentage changes over time.

Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index 

The Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index is a growth/decline index representing ocean container trade volumes at 220 ports around the world. This is an indicator of whether global shipping container volumes are growing or declining at major ports worldwide. If the index is growing we can assume that global trade is expanding and more volumes are flowing between ports. If it is declining, we can assume that global trade is slowing and fewer ocean containers are moving between ports.

ocean freight rates Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index

In the SONAR chart above is the Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index, which shows the ocean freight volumes showing global trade continues to increase over the last 5 years.

What do the Drewry indices tell freight market participants about ocean freight rates and volumes?

Drewery WCI

Freight market participants who ship via ocean containers would be well suited to utilize the Drewry indices regularly. Those participants will use the Drewry WCI to better understand ocean freight demand and ocean freight rates in a given trade lane. Since a great deal of freight originates overseas and then disseminates into freight and transportation networks across the U.S., seeing a major price increase from Shanghai to Los Angeles, for instance (chart below), is a good indicator that Los Angeles freight volumes will increase (with a lag of a few weeks) and likely means that demand will increase throughout the entire market.

ocean freight rates Drewry World Container Index Shanghai to Los Angeles

The difference between the Shanghai to Los Angeles price and the Shanghai to New York price tells you if the ocean freight rates of shipping via a container are more favorable than freight costs on land. If there is low capacity via rail or truck on land, shippers now have the option to ship through the Panama Canal to New York (or another East Coast port).

Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index

Market participants can turn to the Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index to see if global trade volumes are declining or growing. The Drewry Global Container Port Throughput Index is a volume growth/decline index based on monthly throughput data for a sample of over 220 ports worldwide, representing over 75% of global volumes. The base point for the indices is January 2012 = 100. So, for reference, the chart above of this index shows a number of 127.74 indicating growth in global trade volumes from 2012 to 2020.

How do various freight market participants utilize the Drewry WCI?

The following freight market participants are turning to the Drewry WCI to monitor spot ocean freight rates:

  • Analysts: The Drewry WCIs are very good indicators of freight volumes (demand) moving in the selected maritime lanes and the subsequent port cities. This can often be a leading indicator of whether demand for ocean freight is increasing or decreasing across a given trade lane. 
  • Carriers: Linking a long-term contract price to a verified and objective index provides carriers a solid benchmark ocean freight rate that keeps forwarders/NVOCCs from under-paying or going off-contract when prices drop.
  • Brokers: By monitoring the average price per 40-foot container in the spot market, brokers can monitor whether they are overpaying if prices drop, and can have confidence that they are paying the market ocean freight rate (or better than the market rate) should spot ocean freight rates climb.  
  • Shippers: By monitoring the average rate for a 40-foot container in the spot market, shippers can better understand whether they are overpaying or getting a competitive price for the movement of their containers. Shippers can also use it to make more educated routing decisions – whether to route their shipments from Shanghai to Los Angeles or to route them from Shanghai to New York. 

Keep ahead of spot ocean freight rates by purchasing and using SONAR

In turbulent times, freight market participants need certainty to stay ahead of the freight market and understand the freight demand occurring in each participant’s most important lanes, markets and shipping modes. The premier freight forecasting engine, FreightWaves SONAR, allows participants to benchmark, analyze, monitor and forecast freight demand and costs in multiple shipping modes, including ocean freight shipping, by reading the available Drewry indices in SONAR. 

SONAR ensures more proactive responses to the market, provides correlations between several indices to guide decisions and helps to manage freight budgets or margins more proactively. Click the button below to get a demo of SONAR to see what the platform can do for you.

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