The HARPEX Shipping Index is a container ship index by the ship brokers Harper Petersen & Co. The HARPEX Shipping Index tracks weekly container shipping rate changes in the time charter market for eight classes of all-container ships. The index was compiled in 2004, but by using a database of 10,000 records, can be calculated retrospectively back to 1986.


The HARPEX index is considered a suitable indicator of global economic fleet shipping activity since it tracks changes in freight rates for container ships over broad categories. This index is slightly different than the better-known Baltic Dry Index that tracks freight costs for dry bulk ships that usually carry bulk cargoes and raw materials such as coal, ore and grain.

Similar to the Baltic Exchange, Harper Petersen collects information from its members. Instead of using shipping routes as a unit of analysis, HARPEX weights average daily charter rates across eight size classes of vessels to formulate its index.

International trade is the centerpiece of the global economy; the United States increasingly turns to foreign suppliers for many consumer goods it once produced domestically. Many studies of international trade emphasize only the starting and finish lines of the supply chain, with little consideration of how goods arrive at their final destination. A closer look at the logistics reveals a story of competition and innovation, in which a complex and dynamic network of ships moves the vast majority of traded goods across the world’s oceans. A number of indexes document two principal sectors of maritime shipping — dry bulk and container cargo — and are believed to foretell broader production and commercial developments.

A vessel containing dry bulk generally transports a single load type. Containers ships, by comparison, usually transport a wide variety of finished goods — making measures such as the HARPEX Shipping Index more flexible for measuring global trade.