The largest maritime shipper to Hawaii announced an 8.5 percent increase to its fuel surcharge effective March 27, less than four weeks after announcing a 4.75 percent surcharge hike that kicks in this weekend. The other shipping lines usually match Matson.
This will bring the total fuel surcharge to 35 percent of basic container fees, which themselves went up 3.8% at the beginning of the year. The 2011 surcharge increases work out to a penny or two for many consumer goods - a head of lettuce, a piece of lumber - but add substantially to costs for retailers.
"Last month, when we announced our first upward adjustment to our fuel surcharge in over a year, we hoped that fuel prices would moderate," said Matson Senior Vice President Dave Hoppes. "Instead, just the opposite has occurred. Fuel prices have increased dramatically and have been exacerbated by the current unrest in the Middle East."
Crude oil went over $100 a barrel this week before easing only slightly to $97 a barrel on Friday. Hoppes says bunker fuel, which container ships burn, has been over $100 a barrel for some time.
Because crude oil price changes can take weeks to work their way through the economic pipeline to end-users, further fuel surcharge increases are possible unless unrest in the Middle East is resolved quickly.