UPDATE 1-Transpacific shippers agree early rise in freight rates
(Adds TSA membership, background)
COPENHAGEN, March 20 (Reuters) - Leading container shipping lines said they will raise Asia-U.S. freight rates by $300 per 40-foot container (FEU) from April 15 instead of May 1, after rates declined in February and early March.
The increase was agreed by the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA), whose executive administrator Brian Conrad said the slide had misrepresented conditions in the Asia-U.S. freight market.
"The downward rate pressures we are seeing do not reflect the steadily improving cargo picture eastbound from Asia," he said in a statement.
Freight rates plunged to loss-making levels for several shipping companies in 2013 as a result of overcapacity in the market.
The TSA groups 15 of the world's biggest container shipping lines, including Denmark's Maersk Line, a unit of A.P. Moller-Maersk, privately owned Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), French privately held CMA CGM, China's COSCO and Korea's Hanjin Shipping .
It also raised Asia-U.S. rates on January 15 and March 15.
Spot freight rates are calculated and published every week by Shanghai Shipping Exchange. Last week rates for transport from Asia to the U.S. West Coast stood at $3,287 per 40-foot container.
Founded in 1989, the TSA calls itself a "research and discussion forum of major container shipping lines" serving the trade from Asia to the United States.
Liner shipping was previously organised in similar groups called "liner conferences" which met to discuss market conditions, freight rates and other common concerns.
But the European Union decided in 2006 to ban the practice as against competition rules and the ban took effect in 2008.
(Reporting by Ole Mikkelsen; Editing by John Stonestreet)