Ocean Freight Market Update

Asia → North America (Transpacific Eastbound)

Rates: This week saw the first announcement of a GRI on the trade for several months ($1,200 FEU ). We are yet to hear of further announcements, but they are expected to be forthcoming. 

Capacity: Volumes have picked up as suppliers look to export volumes prior to CNY, which has increased the strain on capacity.  

Equipment: The equipment situation is now acute, with carriers in some cases able to provide the required containers for the “premium services.” This situation is likely to continue through January and well past CNY.  

Ports: This week, there were again over 30 large vessels at anchorage waiting for berths at either Long Beach or Los Angeles. The continued strong demand has placed increased strain on already creaking port operations. Problems in California are compounded by the lack of flexibility in the service rotation. 

Asia → Europe (Far East Westbound)

Rates: The market appears to have finally stabilised, with only some small movement since the beginning of 2021. Rates remain high, as demand remains strong in the build up to CNY. 

Capacity: Space is still at a premium, as again carriers look to skip ports to maintain schedule reliability. An extra service ( 2800 Teus ) is being deployed the 1st week of February, which will assist in sweeping up some of the additional volume.  

Equipment: This continues to be the major issue for all trades, as the whole Asia region is affected by a shortage of equipment. Suppliers are now looking at substituting 1*40’ for 2*20’ in order to ensure products can be shipped.

Air Freight Market Update


US Market: There is a rate increase this week, owing to the traditional Chinese New Year holiday period. Space is also very tight.

EU Market (FRA/AMS/LUX, etc): The overall trend is still very similar to that for the US – we can see the rate increase before CNY, but there are also some spot rate opportunities still available in the market, especially for dense cargo. Space is also very tight this week.

UK Market: Compared to the rate increases of the EU destinations, the UK rates have become relatively stable. Spot rates are still available, especially for dense cargo.

Overview of the Chinese air freight market is that there will be a small peak before Chinese New Year, and rates may see some slight increase, and space may also become relatively tight. Rates after the small peak period are expected to drop slowly.

Air China has suspended all freighters ex PVG to TPE / BKK / AMS / LAX until further notice as all airline crews will need to have COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing first. This will also have an impact on capacity.


According to the TAC Index, the first few weeks of January saw the average Shanghai-North America rate rising to $8.34 per kilogram. This level had not been seen since the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns in May 2020. This week Shanghai-Europe rates fell 8 percent to $4.62/kg. This is still up 78 percent compared with the first week of 2020. Europe-North America rates fell slightly, down 2 percent on last week. They are still up 147 percent year over year.


WorldACD has released its 2020 numbers for air freight, with last month seeing volumes only just below those of a year earlier. This does not mark a return to normality though. The data provider analysed the largest markets in six regions in comparison with 2019.

Swissport said it handled 41.m tons of cargo last year – some 12.3% lower than a year earlier. (Passenger-driven demand was down 68.9%.) Revenue fell by about half, but for the second half of 2021, they are “cautiously optimistic.’

European Road Freight Market Update

Documentation for importing cargo into the UK – It has been found that if there is a PO that is larger than 1 trailer’s worth of goods, it is better to have 2 separate commercial invoices that accompany each trailer vs. splitting the goods and documentation across 2 trailers. The purpose of this is that it will help prevent border delays.

There is still push back from many importing haulers based in Europe, as they are dealing with a backlog of customs documentation, which is pushing lead times up. Rather than collecting within 1-2 days, they are still preferring to collect at the end of the week and early into the next.

T1 Documentation – It’s important to note that when cargo travels with T1 documentation, the trailer can’t go directly to the destination. Rather, it has to stop off at a customs office first to close that documentation before the delivery. Some brokers are beginning to charge a % of T1 documentation. The change in T1 is due to liability falling with the broker if a T1 is not closed.

Trailer Availability – Trailer availability is still down within Europe. There are also delays of trailers coming back into Europe.

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