By Jonathan Saul
LONDON (Reuters) - A surge in container shipping rates poses a threat to the global economic recovery, with small countries dependent on deliveries by sea expected to be hardest hit by a spike in import prices, U.N. agency UNCTAD said on Thursday.
A surge in demand for consumer goods during the pandemic has created major supply bottlenecks around the world, which has impacted the supply of container ships and boxes to transport cargo.
Shipping and port officials expect global supply chain disruptions to extend into 2022.
"The current surge in freight rates will have a profound impact on trade and undermine socioeconomic recovery, especially in developing countries, until maritime shipping operations return to normal," said UNCTAD Secretary General Rebeca Grynspan.
In its Review of Maritime Transport for 2021, UNCTAD said that the current surge in container freight rates, if sustained, could increase global import price levels by 11% and consumer price levels by 1.5% between now and 2023.
"The impact is expected to be more significant for smaller economies that depend heavily on imported goods for much of their consumption needs," it said.
UNCTAD said maritime supply chain stakeholders including container lines, ports, inland transport providers, customs and shippers "should work together to share information and make maritime transport more efficient".
"In the face of these cost pressures and lasting market disruption, it is increasingly important to monitor market behaviour and ensure transparency when it comes to setting rates, fees and surcharges," it said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul. Editing by Jane Merriman)