Freight rates in the Asia-Europe trades continue to drop, with spot prices now down more than a third since May.

The latest Shanghai Containerised Freight Index data shows that spot rates on this key route remain under pressure, with a further drop of $66 per teu, or just over 5%, in the space of seven days.

That brings the rate down to $1,218, compared with a high of $1,934 four months ago when lines were still preparing for a peak season and pushing through hefty rate increases.

Instead, volumes have fallen on the trades into Europe and rather than the usual seasonal surge in cargo, lines have been forced to reduce capacity by blanking sailings or suspending services.

The World Container Index is showing the same trend, with the latest rate Shanghai-Rotterdam rate marked down $36 per 40 ft container to $2,542, down from more than $3,000 a month ago.

Earlier in the year, spot rates on this route were close to $4,000 per feu after a strong rally in the early months of 2012 from below $1,000 for a 40 ft box shipped west from China in January.

Trade conditions on one of the world’s premier routes have deteriorated in recent weeks, however, with European imports of containerised goods from Asia sliding in July compared with a year earlier.

Container Trades Statistics reported a 13.2% year-on-year reduction in westbound volumes at a time of year when trade conditions should be strong.

Asia to northern Europe liftings slumped to 1.2m teu in July, from 1.3m teu in that month last year.

But whereas rates in the Asia-Europe trades are weakening, the Pacific trade has seen rates increase sharply over the course of a week.

As well as a modest peak season in the Asia-US trades, the rise in rates is thought to reflect fears of strike action in US east and Gulf coast ports, with shippers moving cargo before industrial action starts or diverting freight to other gateways.

Spot rates from Asia to the US west coast rose $221 per feu to $2,711, and those to east coast destinations climbed $246 to $3,966 per 40 ft box.