Ocean Freight Market Update

Asia → North America (Transpacific Eastbound)

Rates: Rates have been stable over the past week.

Capacity: Overbooking continues as suppliers look to export volumes prior to CNY, which has increased the strain on capacity. CMA announced the closure of their transpacific express service after the congestion at Los Angeles port worsened, impacting their delivery guarantees. This was a service that offered money back if containers were not ready to pick up by an agreed date. These ships will now be placed in the route from China’s main ports to other west coast ports (Oakland and Seattle). Another consequence of this congestion is the announcement of blank sailings from ONE and Hapag Lloyd. Twenty cancellations have been announced by THE Alliance members (ONE and Hapag Lloyd) between February and March.

Equipment: Similar to last week, the equipment situation continues to be severe. In some cases, carriers can provide the required containers for the “Premium Services,” a situation that is likely now to continue well past CNY.

Ports: Again this week, we saw several dozen vessels waiting to berth at Los Angeles. This situation has also been worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak at the port, with over 1800 workers not working (700 of them infected and others awaiting results) impacting the performance of the port operations.  In order to fight this severe congestion, the Port of Los Angeles has provided a new financial incentive programme for terminal operators offering $7.5m for faster truck turnaround times. 

Asia → Europe (Far East Westbound)

Rates: Despite high, the rates have seen a slight decrease to the UK from the Chinese main ports, with the exception of some localized increases in China. Southeast Asia has not suffered any decrease due to the lack of space and severe equipment deficiency.  

Capacity: Maersk and MSC have announced the cancellation of 4 sailings out of China between week 5 and 7. According to Maersk, these cancellations have “been driven by a combination of rapidly increased demand and measures to fight the pandemic that led to slower supply chain operations across ports, inland depots, warehouses and inland transport modes.” CMA CGM will also be blank sailing three loops.

Equipment: Still continues to be a problem.

Air Freight Market Update


US Market: Rates have increased this week due to the lead up to the Chinese New Year holiday period. Space is also very tight and some origins have even reported that space is fully booked up to the 7th of February.

EU Market (base airports like FRA/AMS/LUX etc.): Similar to the US market, rates to EU destinations are also increasing this week due to the Chinese New Year holiday period. Space is also very tight this week. Demand is larger than available capacity.

UK Market: Rates have increased, and space is very tight this week. It is still recommended an air-air service to the UK is a better option rather than air-truck service to avoid the delays at EU borders.

Spot rate still available in the market, especially for dense cargo.

Local trucking service – There is a severe shortage of truck drivers and air routes disrupted by crew restrictions. Quarantine laws have led drivers to self-isolate in the lead up to the Chinese New Year holiday period.


Tight capacity has been an issue for the air freight market since the start of Covid. In January, passenger airlines were forced to cut back international flying due to the global resurgence of the virus and the new strain. Global air cargo capacity fell 16% in the past two weeks compared to the same period a year ago.


All direct passenger flights from the UAE to the UK have been cancelled. This will create challenges for forwarders trying to avoid routing cargo through the EU. It appears that Emirates will continue 28 flights a week on freighters and passenger freighters to Heathrow and Manchester. 

Charter broker Air Partner has reported a 50% increase in demand as transporting cargo via sea continues to prove to be challenging.  They reported that 50% of business in their freight division is coming from transporting goods that would normally go via sea transportation. With the Chinese New Year holiday period approaching, some hope that this time period will allow shipping lines and ports to catch up. 

European Road Freight Market Update

Trailer Availability – Trailer availability across Europe is still very low across both groupage and full trailers. The main reason for this is that a lot of trailers are still incurring delays at the frontier whilst they go through the customs clearance process.

Customs Procedures – Customs procedures are still holding up availability of equipment. Once it is booked, it would be prudent for businesses to anticipate 1-2 days for the customs clearance process to take place.

Rates – Rates for Europe are stable for any cross trades at the minute. We have seen an increase in just freight rates for anything that crosses the UK border.

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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