Report: Shipping rates could rise on increased demand from Japan  It's getting a lot more expensive to ship goods as energy prices soar in the wake of the political uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Rates for panamaxes, which are the biggest coal and iron-ore carriers that pass through the Panama Canal, could climb 55 percent as Japan rebuilds following destruction left in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11.

According to Castalia Fund Management managing director Philippe van den Abeele, forward freight agreements, traded by brokers and used to hedge or bet on future transport costs, could jump to $22,000 a day from their current rate of roughly $14,000 per day.

Japan is the biggest importer of coal and the second-biggest purchaser of iron ore after China, Bloomberg reports. The Japanese government has estimated the destruction caused by the natural disasters could total more than $300 billion and the country is currently trying to prevent its economy from contracting as it works to rebuild.

"It takes time and resources to rebuild the amount of infrastructure, buildings and cities that have been lost," said First Securities analyst Erik Folkeson Jensen. Japan could purchase as much as 6 million metric tons of coal as it looks to find alternative energy sources as nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue to totter on the verge of melting down.
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