Ocean Freight Market Update

Asia → North America (Transpacific Eastbound)

Rates: Are set to remain stable until the end of January. However, Peak Season Surcharges are expected to increase again on the 1st February.  The increase is expected to be $1,000 per unit.   

Capacity: Remains tight, but the biggest issue is securing equipment. 

Equipment: Carriers are actively promoting SOC boxes as the equipment shortage continues to affect all carriers in Asia. There is no respite expected until the end of February, and issues continuing through March as carriers look to reposition boxes.  

Ports: Berthing delays continue to hamper operations on the West Coast, with the backlog of vessels seemingly increasing week to week.  

Asia → Europe (Far East Westbound)

Rates: Have remained stable and in some locations marginally dropped. This is likely to continue leading up to CNY, with some regional variances based on demand. 

Capacity: Remains tight, as carriers cover schedule recovery by sliding vessels rather than complete blank sailings. This means different ports will be affected at different times. 

Equipment: This is the key driver when looking at rates now. Space continues to be tight, but being able to obtain the required equipment with enough time to be able to carry out stuffing is the biggest challenge facing suppliers. 

Air Freight Market Update


  • US market: The overall market trend tends to be steady, but compared to last week there is some increase owing to the traditional Chinese New Year. There will be a rush for flights before CNY.
  • EU market (base airport like FRA/AMS/LUX, etc): The overall trend remains the same as the US market. We can see the rate increasing before CNY, but actually, there are spot rates that are still available in the market, especially for dense cargo and some specific airlines like PO, etc. The space situation is also much better than previously, but tighter than last week.
  • UK market: Compared to the rate increase of EU destinations, the UK rate is relatively stable owing to lockdown.


  • Forecasts indicate heightened air freight rates will continue in 2021, while the demand outlook remains uncertain. The slow restoration of bellyhold capacity will continue to drive the high rates. Air freight rates are likely to remain elevated and volatile for some time. Initial flights to return would be short-haul, domestic, and leisure, which align less favorably with cargo. Core long-haul international travel and the belly capacity that comes along with it will be slower to return, so capacity relief for cargo should lag the recovery in airline passenger activity.
  • Extra freighter and PAX-freighter flights could help alleviate some of the capacity pressure. There are limits to this though as short-term rates may not always be high enough to justify PAX-freighter flights. In the long term, companies may hold back on investing in freighter conversions due to uncertainty around the situation when belly capacity is eventually ramped up.
  • A faster than expected rise in e-commerce demand, COVID-19 vaccine supply chains, and PPE demand would all drive the air freight market over the coming year. The vaccine distribution impact on air freight capacity may not be as acute as expected due to the dispersed nature of production and the form factor of the doses. Container availability, storage, handling, and road distribution are more likely to be bottlenecks. 


  • As demand continues to increase, Virgin Atlantic is planning to ramp up its all-cargo operations. The airline said that it plans to increase its cargo-only operations by 60% in January. This will add an extra 12 rotations per week and will bring its weekly total to 33.
  • Dedicated cargo-only operations fly to Antigua, Brussels, Chicago, Delhi, Dublin, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Miami, Mumbai, San Juan in Puerto Rico, and Shanghai. It also offers charter services.
  • The increase in scheduled operations comes as Virgin Atlantic Cargo celebrates a record-breaking year in 2020, with revenues up by around 50%. Last year, the cargo business operated 4,000 cargo only flights.
  • The airline also continues to transport cargo on its scheduled passenger services. Destinations include Atlanta, Barbados, Boston, New York JFK, Lagos, Islamabad, Lahore, Los Angeles, Miami and Tel Aviv.


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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