Atlantic panamax freight rates are softer in contrast to returns for panamaxes trading the Far East where rates are firmer, shipbrokers said on Tuesday.
Atlantic freight rates, however, could stabilize in the days ahead, they added, suggesting that the Pacific panamax rate rise could be reaching a peak.
The reason behind the Atlantic stabilization theory is that ice problems in the Mississippi may not be as bad as originally thought.
Shipbrokers said that suppliers are now confident that they will be able to get cargoes down to the US Gulf on schedule.
Moreover, grain purchasing activity has picked up considerably over the past few days.
Shipbrokers report that China has purchased ten panamax grain cargoes recently. Six are for end January dates from the US Gulf, and the remaining four panamax-sized cargoes are scheduled for spring dates from Argentina.
Overall, however, shipbrokers are finding it difficult to judge whether the Atlantic market will actually be more upbeat in the days ahead.
While there is no dispute that the outlook appears more positive due to the additional cargo demand, a question mark over the amount of available tonnage waiting to snap up these orders remains.