NEWS FREIGHT PRICES SLUMP AS FINANCIAL CRISIS BITES: UNCTAD

FREIGHT PRICES SLUMP AS FINANCIAL CRISIS BITES: UNCTAD

freight prices slump as financial crisis bites: unctad
GENEVA: Global freight prices sank more than 11-fold between May and November, showing that the financial crisis has began to slow international trade, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Tuesday. The so-called Baltic Dry Index, a composite of shipping prices for various dry products such as iron, grain and coal, plunged to 891 points in early November from 11793 points in May, noted UNCTAD.

The steep drop followed unprecedented highs in costs of shipping services recorded during the first quarter of this year, according to UNCTAD's latest annual maritime transport review. This shows that the unfolding financial crisis has spread to international trade with negative implications for developing countries, especially those dependent on commodities, said the UN agency.

The sharply lowered prices would benefit exporters and importers through lower costs under normal circumstances. But in this case, UNCTAD noted that the falling prices were due to lower global demand for goods, therefore, it would negatively affect many developing economies.

Meanwhile, the UN agency noted in its annual review that the world's merchant fleet had also expanded to a record 1.12 billion deadweight tonnes, with the order book for new vessels reaching a peak of 10,053 ships in 2008. The new orders are equivalent to 44 per cent of the tonnage of the current fleet. But from mid 2008, companies are cancelling new ships on order, UNCTAD said.

This could have a major impact on the ship building industries of countries such as China, South Korea and Vietnam, it added.


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