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: the Suez canal is unblocked, but the ripple effects are just beginning.


While this week saw the Ever Given finally moved from its position blocking the Suez Canal, the backlog is likely to cause knock on effects around the world. With container circulation delayed, inventory will build up at destination ports, worsening existing congestion and causing further delays across all trade lanes.

Shippers should be aware of how this could affect any NAC negotiations and be ready to manage contract timelines to balance security and flexibility. This is also the time to work closely with your forwarder. With container shortages worsened, space and unloading times will be even more unreliable. Shippers should review planned buffer times and stocks to quantify risk and then find affected products and calculate potential shortfalls to determine if air capacity is a viable strategy for at risk SKUs.

Asia → North America

Rates Rates remained the same for the spot market, however changes might be possible due to the Suez Canal incident which will put further pressure on the imbalance of supply and demand in freight.
Capacity A new service from ZIM has been announced to connect South East Asia(Yantian and Vietnam) to the US East Coast. Dates and deployment to be announced soon.
Equipment The situation continues to deteriorate. The CAx Container Index indicates a continuous trend of empties accumulating in the West Coast, with the index now sitting at 0.89 this week versus 0.76 five weeks ago.
Ports Congestion has barely improved in Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Despite workers continuing to be vaccinated, productivity is still low across the board, from truckers’ turnaround time, terminal transfers, gate in transactions delay vessel operations. The other surrounding ports of Oakland and Savannah have seen an improvement.

Asia → Europe (Far East Westbound)

Rates Rates in the spot market announced for the coming 2 weeks have mostly seen a decrease, however it is unclear if these will remain the same for the second half of April given the uncertainty caused by the Suez Canal blockage. While some carriers have reduced rates, others have issued very short term validities where it is believed they will reassess the availability of space and equipment.
Capacity The Suez Canal incident has affected capacity in multiple ways. Not only there is a backlog of vessels waiting to cross the canal, as the fact others have been diverted around the Cape of Good Hope has in essence increased the transit time and removed the frequency and capacity of those services.
Equipment Felixstowe move count restrictions remain in place, now reported at 5000 moves per vessel. Productivity in the port is low as a result of COVID-19 related measures for working conditions as well as the new hiring of teams that occurred since January but for which the productivity levels have not been reached yet.

Europe → USA (Transatlantic Westbound)

Rates Rates are still being influenced by the lack of space in the trade. Further increases will come in from April.
Capacity Space has been an issue in the last weeks, with the majority of carriers reporting full vessels six weeks in advance.
Ports Vessel operations are not currently an issue, but the excess amount of empty equipment is impacting the port operations and the inland connections. Extra loaders are being employed to help remove the excess of empties.


The high demand for IT goods (Apple, Dell, Xiaomi, Huawei are all requiring space), and relatively less demand on general cargo continues to squeeze air capacity. Recent demand for vaccine shipments, which require higher yield temperature controlled equipment, has further aggravated the space situation and resulted in the rates soaring to a high level.

Meanwhile, further port congestion of sea freight shipments caused some urgent shipments to be transferred to airfreight. We also predict the Ever Given accident in the Suez Canal will tighten the market even more as shippers look to move urgent SKUs in time to cover availability.


US Air Freight rates have continued to increase due to the market seeing continued demand for project and vaccine shipments. Flight cancellations (CA freighter) have made the situation even worse and space is extremely tight due to the decreased capacity. No spot rates even for dense cargo are being offered.
EU Air freight rates have continued to increase due to the market seeing continued demand for project and vaccine shipments. The Ever Given incident in the Suez Canal has caused many shipments to switch to Air to avoid long delays. Space is extremely tight and there are almost no spot rates available for dense cargo to FRA, AMS is better, some spot rates are available for super dense cargo.
UK Air Freight rates have also increased this week due to the market continuing to have a large influx of project shipments i.e. vaccines and IT equipment. Transit services via AMS or FRA have remained normal this week but space directly to the UK is very limited. Spot rates are not available in the market and again capacity is very limited.


US Capacity continues to be tight and erratic which will result in continuing upward pressure on prices, which will be adjusted on a more frequent basis than the traditional seasonal changes.


Outbound Air cargo demand remains robust,  by issues in container shipping, keeping rates elevated. UK rates remain at a high level and will do so until schedules start to come back on line


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

The global freight market was in a fragmented and disrupted state even before the Ever Given blocked one of its major arteries. This will exacerbate existing issues around port congestion, container availability and origin disruption.  Meanwhile robust US demand shows little sign of abating – while infection numbers have crept up in recent weeks, vaccination efforts continue apace in a country impatient to return to normality. This will ensure that transpacific freight routes remain highly profitable for carriers and concentrate power in the hands of the lines in contract negotiations.

This will continue to put pressure on the air freight market at a time when vaccinations and other project shipments are already tightening capacity. Long term planning will continue to be essential, with wider windows for bookings as well as inventory planning that takes into account longer lead times and extra buffers for short-staffed congested ports and airports.

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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