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The spot rate for a 40-foot container to the U.S. from Asia topped $20,000 last year, up from less than $2,000 a few years ago, and was recently hovering near $14,000.

The spot rate for a 40-foot container to the U.S. from Asia topped $20,000 last year, up from less than $2,000 a few years ago, and was recently hovering near $14,000.

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg
Business
The Big Take

Shipping Companies Had a $150 Billion Year. Economists Warn They’re Also Stoking Inflation

“They exploit our desperation”: Small businesses and consumers are paying for sky-high freight costs as cargo giants mint profits.

Ocean shipping rates are expected to stay elevated well into 2022, setting up another year of booming profits for global cargo carriers — and leaving smaller companies and their customers from Spain to Sri Lanka paying more for just about everything.

The spot rate for a 40-foot container to the U.S. from Asia topped $20,000 last year, including surcharges and premiums, up from less than $2,000 a few years ago, and was recently hovering near $14,000. What’s more, tight container capacity and port congestion mean that longer-term rates set in contracts between carriers and shippers are running an estimated 200% higher than a year ago, signaling elevated prices for the foreseeable future.