Welcome to the Zencargo weekly freight market update – the latest news from our freight and procurement teams on the real experience of shippers.
This week: US demand continues, vaccines maintain air rates and equipment is still stacking up.


Equipment issues and surging demand, both especially notable in the US, continue to put pressure on the ports.

While European ports have managed to avoid the congestion seen on the American coasts, container stock distribution remains out of balance on all major trade lanes. Meanwhile, there is no news of capacity being added, indicating that there won’t be any major relief on rates.

Asia → North America

Rates Rates unchanged since last week on both the spot and long term market.
Capacity Volumes up 43% compared to the same month last year with an expected increase of 25% in import volumes in the first 6 months of 2021 compared to the last 6 months of 2020.
Equipment The situation continues to deteriorate. The CAx Container Index indicates a continuous trend of empties accumulating in the West Coast, with the index reporting 0.83 this week versus 0.52 five weeks ago.
Ports Congestion in the West Coast of the US seems to be showing signs of improvement. The number of ships waiting to berth has decreased to 29 vessels having been 40 vessels at its peak.

Asia → Europe (Far East Westbound)

Rates Rates in the spot market continue their downward trend, with some carriers starting to negotiate contracts while others are still holding on to monthly FAK rates, avoiding embarking on Named Account deals or Annual tenders.
Capacity Current capacity seems to be able to cope with demand with no major reports of lack of space in the trade.
Equipment No major lack of equipment has been reported but the stocks of empties are building up very fast in Continental Europe, which might soon impact the availability of containers in Asia.

Europe → USA (Transatlantic Westbound)

Rates We are now seeing rates increasing through announcements made by different carriers. Hapag has issued a GRI increase of USD800/40’, CMA a rate increase of USD1000/40’ and MSC implemented an increase of USD1200/40’. Rate validities are also very short reflecting the instability of the market.
Capacity Space is under pressure, with reports of difficulties getting bookings confirmed.
Equipment Ports on the East Coast are experiencing congestion, with the turnaround time of containers affecting the availability of trucks and increasing the cost of detention and demurrage faced by clients in the US.


As strong demand continues to outstrip available capacity, space on routes out of Asia remain highly competitive and dynamic. This can be seen in how airlines are approaching BSAs. With high demand and high prices, the carriers are limiting contracted space and keeping more capacity on the spot market.

The general market view is that space constraints will continue in the air market in some form for long term – up to 2025 – as the world awaits the return of commercial air travel. In the short term, this will continue to be exacerbated by equipment shortages and delays in the ocean market driving shippers towards urgent air freight.


US Air Freight rates have increased slightly due to a sudden surge in project shipments. Spot rates are still available, especially for dense cargo while volume cargo also has options, however space is tight and filling fast.
EU Air Freight rates increased slightly due to vaccine shipments which have been taking capacity from the market. Spot rates are still available for dense cargo and volume cargo though space is limited.
UK Air Freight rates increased this week owing to vaccine shipments which have seen a large increase. Space is available but not as abundant as previous weeks, so it’s suggested to book as early as possible.


US Average prices from Hong Kong to North America in February reached $6.42 per kg, which is flat when compared with January. However, compared with a year earlier, average rates on the trade were up by 101% as a result of a resurgence in US retail spending.


Outbound Air cargo demand remains robust,  by issues in container shipping, keeping rates elevated.


Availability Availability has levelled out and has remained the same for the past few weeks with generally good availability across all lanes.
Rates Rates are elevated from Belgium and Spain due a shortage of trailers in the region driving prices, stemming from less demand from these regions.
Customs Customs clearances are still the main bottleneck in road transportation booking, with clearances taking multiple days.

The route ahead

As demand continues to grow and capacity struggles to align itself, shippers will need to take a longer view than ever of shipping windows and order timelines. The combination of short term inventory needs and long term planning will require a new level of alignment within organisations to manage available stock, capital and freight costs.

In this new paradigm, it will be those businesses that can most effectively leverage their supply chain data to coordinate with suppliers and internal teams that will be best placed to adapt to evolving conditions.

The information that is available in the Weekly Market Update comes from a variety of online sources. Click below to learn more about how Zencargo can help make your supply chain your competitive advantage.

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