In Focus: Tensions in the Middle East continue

Over the past week, tensions have escalated in the Middle East as the MSC Aries was seized in the Hormuz Strait. It is unlikely that the conflict will resolve anytime soon.

The Hormuz Strait is a key passage for ships arriving at Dubai, which has been a key port for carriers since the Red Sea Crisis. It is also a critical passage for the transportation of oil, therefore if the situation evolves, this could have an immediate impact on oil prices. 

Geopolitical events are proving to have a greater impact on shipping rates than the supply and demand equation. Carriers are also confirming an early peak season which will lead to higher rates for the coming weeks. Vessel utilisation is high and cargo such as white goods, solar panels, electric vehicles and garden furniture are showing high booking levels.

  • Space in April is very tight which has prompted carriers to implement GRIs for May. 
    • Any space available in April is at a premium rate and only available for South China. 
    • There is no space in North China around Shanghai and Ningbo , even at a premium rate. 
  • There is a 10-13% capacity reduction in the first half of May due to the reshuffling of the Ocean Alliance and also blank sailings from THE Alliance. 
    • This is impacting the space available in May and North China is more impacted than South China.
    • There is indication that space will be tight across the whole of May therefore pre-booking space in advance will be essential.

Central China to Europe

  • From SHA to Europe, the market is busy this week and there is less available space. 
    • Rates are higher and space until the middle of the week is nearly full. 
    • Please check space and rates in advance of booking. 
  • From NGB to Europe, rates are increasing this week and final rates depend on a case-by-case basis. 
    • Please check space and rates 4-5 days prior to cargo ready date. 

North China to Europe

  • Rates from Korean Airlines from TSN to Europe are high and fluctuating. Asiana Airlines are confirming rates on a case-by-case basis. 
    • Singapore Airlines are providing a cheaper rate but they require 7-10 days in advance to book. 
    • The market is tight compared to last week. 
  • On DLC/PEK to Europe, rates with most airlines are increasing this week. 
    • To secure space, book a week in advance. 
  • The market is busy this week from TAO to Europe and space is very tight. Estimated Time of Departure is 5-7 days after booking. 
    • Rates have increased significantly over the weekend. 

South China to Europe

  • From CAN to Europe, space will be tight due to the incoming Labour Day holiday on 1st May. 
  • From SZX to Europe, the market is busy and carriers have increased their rates.
  • From XMN to Europe, rates have increased since last weekend. Rates will need to be checked on a case-by-case basis. 
  • There have been no big changes in rates for the 2nd half of April. 
    • There has been a slight rate decrease to main US East Coast Ports, which comes as a surprise given the closure of the Port of Baltimore and increased volumes hitting other main East Coast ports. 
    • Space has become very tight as long term contracts are coming to an end. 
  • Starting from 8th May, HMM will introduce an additional Vietnam – China – Taiwan – US West Coast service. 
    • This will be serviced by buying a fixed allocation of 250 TEU slots per round voyage on the AP1 loop, which is jointly operated by WHL and ONE. 
    • This service replaces WHL’s standalone Asia – US West Coast AA3 service, which will be rebranded. 
    • The two main differences between the current AA3 and the new AP1 are as follows:
      • Hai Phong Port will be added as an additional port. 
      • Two 10,010 TEU ships by ONE will replace WHL’s smaller 3,010 TEU sister vessels, WHL 353 and 363. 

Central China to USA

  • From SHA to the USA, the market is busy this week. Space is less available and rates are higher. Space up to the middle of the week is nearly full. 
  • From NGB to the USA, rates are increasing this week. 
    • Please check final rates on a case-by-case basis. 

North China to USA

  • Rates from Korean Airlines from TSN to the USA have increased and are fluctuating. 
    • Asiana Airlines are confirming rates on a case-by-case basis. 
    • Japan Airlines needs 10 days in advance for bookings. 
    • Market is tight compared to last week. 
  • On DLC/PEK to the USA, rates with most airlines have increased this week. 
    • Dense cargo can be booked with spot rates.
    • Space needs to be booked 10 days in advance.  
  • The market from TAO to the US is busy this week and space is tight. 
    • Rates have increased significantly this week.

South China to USA

  • From CAN to the USA, space will become tight due to the incoming Labour Day holiday in China on 1st May. 
  • From SZX to the USA, the market is busy and carriers have increased rates as space has become tight before the Labour Day holiday.
  • From XMN to the USA, rates are stable but this may increase over the weekend. 
  • On the Transatlantic trade, some carriers have announced GRIs for May. 
    • Space and equipment is available but issues remain in South Germany. 
    • Finally, US imports from Europe spiked by 19.6% in February and 8.4% in March following a 4.4% decline in January.


  • Here is the most recent port update from the US: 
    • The Ports of LA and Long Beach have 1 vessel waiting overall. 
      • There is a 0 day wait to berth with a 9 day dwell on the rail terminals. 
    • Oakland has seen an increase in vessel traffic with 5 vessels waiting to berth with a 6 day dwell on rail.
    • New York/ New Jersey has 1 vessel waiting to berth with a 2 day dwell on the rail.
    • Norfolk and Charleston have no vessels waiting to berth. 
    • Savannah has 4 vessels waiting with a 2 day dwell on rail. 


  • Here is an update from Hapag-Lloyd on ports in the Benelux region:
    • Antwerp, Belgium
      • PSA 913: Yard has been fully repaired after damage from last year’s accident from a collapsed crane. 
        • Yard utilisation remains at 75-80%, with reefers at 75 – 80%.
      • PSA 869: Yard utilisation is at 70 – 75%, with reefers at 55-60%.
      • AGW: Antwerp Gateways yard utilisation remains at 60-65%. Reefer plugs are at 50-55%.
  • Rotterdam, The Netherlands
    • ECT: Yard utilisation is at 65 – 70%, partially driven by yard block maintenance. There are no impacts on operations. 
    • RWG: Yard utilisation is at 75 – 80% and there are no operational challenges to report.
United Kingdom


  • Record numbers of commercial vehicles are in use with 625, 873 HGVs and 5, 012, 632 vans in operation. 
    • According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), this is an increase of 1.7% and 2.6% respectively.
    • Electric van volumes have increased by 43.5% reaching 61,161 with 1.2% of vans now being zero-emission. 
    • Electric HGV numbers have increased by 146.4% in 2023. However, this represents only 0.4% of the fleet.


European Bank Holidays

We anticipate a shortage of availability and the occurrence of delays around the bank holiday periods. Plan ahead and allow extra time for your products to be delivered.

April 25 – Italy, Portugal

April 27 – Netherlands, Slovenia

May 1 – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Polan, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden

May 2 – Romania*, Slovenia, Spain*

May 3 – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Romania

May 4 – Austria*, Bulgaria, Cyprus*, Latvia

May 5 – Bulgaria, Cyprus*, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands*, Romania

May 6 – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland (Eire), Latvia, Romania

May 7 – Cyprus*, Greece

May 8 – Belgium*, Czech Republic, France, Slovakia

May 9 – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden

May 10 – Belgium*, Denmark*

May 15 – Spain*

May 17 – Spain*

May 18 – Sweden*

May 19 – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany*, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden

May 20 – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary Luxembourg, Netherlands

May 24 – Bulgaria

May 30 – Austria, Croatia, Germany*, Poland, Portugal, Spain*

May 31 – Spain*

*Not in all regions


The route ahead

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

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