Baltic Exchange developing container shipping index in new market push

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s Baltic Exchange is developing a container shipping index with Hong Kong-headquartered group Freightos in another sign that the centuries-old business is moving into new markets.

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Founded in 1744 as a forum for chartering vessels, the Baltic Exchange now produces benchmark indexes for global shipping rates, including ones used by the multi-billion dollar freight derivatives market.

The Baltic and its partner on the initiative Freightos, a digital container platform which also has a global database of freight rates, said they would be producing a weekly index for container rates on 12 top container routes that would be audited by the Baltic.

Going forward the index would allow container rates to become tradable instruments by investors.

“Baltic Exchange benchmarks are already widely used as settlement mechanisms in the derivatives and physical markets for billions of dollars-worth of bulk freight transactions,” Baltic chief executive Mark Jackson said in a statement.

Singapore Exchange acquired the Baltic Exchange in 2016 and since then the Baltic has been looking for new areas to develop.

The Baltic has already overhauled world’s leading shipping freight index, which tracks rates for vessels transporting dry bulk commodities including iron ore and coal, which also enables it to become a tradable product.

It is also working on launching an index for liquefied natural gas (LNG) as that sector grows.

Earlier this week, the Baltic announced it was working on a new code of conduct - with a greater focus on anti-bribery, corruption and fairness practices - which it hopes will be adopted across the wider market for users of freight, thereby boosting the company’s reach.

Executives and two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the Baltic plans to launch new indexes for grains, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and potentially air freight in its biggest shake-up for more than a decade as it seeks to boost profitability.

Reporting by Jonathan Saul; editing by David Evans