In Focus: An update on the Red Sea

Rates appear to be plateauing, but the Red Sea conflict shows no signs of de-escalation as the Houthis continue to target commercial vessels, preventing carriers from resuming routes via the Suez Canal. 

Initially seen as a short-term crisis, the situation now resembles challenges faced during the pandemic, including disruptions in flows, significant delays in Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), port congestions, and equipment shortages.

According to Alan Murphy, Sea Intelligence CEO, the vessel capacity drop is the second largest in recent years, with the only event having a more significant impact being the Ever Given incident in 2021 which blocked the Suez Canal. 

Global retailers have issued warnings about product delays in the coming months, leading companies like Tesla, Volvo, and Michelin to halt production on specific products.

We recommend that you work with your freight forwarder closely to minimise disruption in your supply chain.



Central China to USA and Europe 

  • From SHA to Europe and the US, rates  are high and flights are fully booked this week to both destinations. Due to the Chinese New Year holiday:
    • For long distance pick-ups, trucking services will stop from 31st January. 
    • For short distance pick-ups, trucking services will stop from 6th February. 
    • We advise businesses to check if any cargo needs to be shipped out before Chinese New Year. 
  • From NGB to Europe the market is stable this week. However, the market is busy from NGB to the US. 
    • Final rates depend on a case-by-case basis. 
    • We suggest booking space 4-5 days prior to the cargo ready date.

North China to USA and Europe:

  • From TSN to Europe and the US, rates have increased for Korean Airlines. Asiana airlines are confirming rates on a case-by-case basis. 
    • Space is becoming tight to both destinations. 
  • From PEK to Europe and the US, rates with most airlines are fluctuating this week. 
    • Major services from PEK to Europe include: Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Air China, KLM, Air France, Japan Airlines.
    • Major services from PEK to the US include: Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Eva Air.
    • Space from PEK to both destinations is nearly fully booked before the Chinese New Year holiday. 
  • From TAO to Europe and the US, capacity is tight and rates have increased significantly.
    • From TAO to the US, ETD is 6-7 days after booking. 
    • Spot rates are available for dense cargo.

South China to USA and Europe:

  • From CAN to Europe and the USA, space is tight and rates have significantly increased this week. 
    • All shipments will need to be checked with the carrier for rates on a case-by-case basis.
  • From SZX to Europe and the US, the market is stable this week but rates have increased slightly to the US. 
    • All shipments will need to be checked with the carrier for rates on a case-by-case basis.
  • From XMN to Europe and the US, the market has become busier as Chinese New Year is approaching. 
    • Final rates depend on a case-by-case basis. 


  • Here is the latest update on port activity in the US. 
    • The Ports of LA and Long Beach have 4 vessels waiting to berth, which is down by 5 vessels since our last update. There is a 0-day wait to berth, however, the rail dwell time is currently at 7 days.
      • The rails heads are congested due to cargo moving to the East Coast which is normally routed via the Panama Canal. 
    • Oakland is experiencing a wait time of 4 days with 3  vessels waiting to berth. There is a 4-day wait on rail heads. 
    • On the US East Coast, New York/New Jersey has 2 vessels waiting with a 3-day wait to berth, and a 4-day dwell time on rail heads.
    • Norfolk’s vessel bunching has resurfaced again, with a reported 22 vessels waiting to berth.
    • 5 vessels are waiting to berth at Savannah and 6 at Houston. 


  • The ITS Logistics US Port/Rail Ramp Freight Index reports increased Transpacific volumes on the US West Coast.
    • This is due to shippers wanting to avoid potential congestion at US East Coast ports, rerouting of vessels due to the Panama Canal and the seasonal Lunar New Year restock.
    • As more freight is rerouted via the US West Coast, especially to avoid the route via the Panama Canal, congestion is expected to worsen which will affect rail ramps across the US. 


  • According to data from Drewry, containerships are finding it easier to reserve slots as other sectors such as dry bulk are vacating the route. 
    • However, there are still challenges ahead for container ships. It is reported that container ships saw daily transits fall to an average of 7.4 in both November and December, compared to 8.4 in October. 
    • Costs are expected to increase as The Panama Canal Authority has declared that from 1st January, the starting sum for auctions in the Neopanamax Locks has been revised to $100,000 for all auctions. However, on days of high demand, especially Fridays, this auction amount will be adjusted to $110,000. 
    • It is predicted that there will be a reduction of 3,964 transits through the canal this year, resulting in an additional 1,954 transits around the Cape of Good Hope and 998 more through the Strait of Magellan.
    • These alternative routes are estimated to extend journey times by 20%, leading to a 5% increase in the overall costs in maritime trade traversing the Panama Canal, estimated at $1.1bn.


  • On the Asia-Europe trade, two additional void plans announced by carriers have resulted in a more than 25% average capacity reduction for Week 8/9.
    • This has led to extended transit times for vessels and containers due to rerouting via the Cape of Good Hope. 
    • Anticipate a shortage of empty containers in Asia, particularly in outports, in the upcoming weeks. 
    • Blank sailings are scheduled throughout February.


  • The GDL train drivers’ union in Germany will end its current strike earlier than planned as negotiations with Deutsche Bahn resume.
    • The strike, which began on Wednesday over pay and working hours, was set to last until Monday. 
    • However, the union will now conclude the strike in freight transport on Sunday and in passenger transport on Monday. 
    • Both sides have agreed to resume negotiations in private over the next five weeks, with no strikes until at least March 3. 
    • Key issues include the union’s demand for a reduction in working hours to a 35-hour week while maintaining full pay. 

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.

Feb 5 – Ireland (Eire)

Feb 8 – Slovenia

Feb 10 – Malta

Feb 12 – Luxembourg*

Feb 13 – Portugal*, Spain*

Feb 16 – Lithuania 

Feb 24 – Estonia

Feb 28 – Spain*


March 1 – Spain*

March 3 – Bulgaria

March 4 – Bulgaria

March 8 – Germany*

March 11 – Lithuania 

*Not in all regions

The route ahead

The information that is available in the Weekly 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.

Get In Touch