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Freight Market Update: December 29, 2023

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Ocean freight market update

China-North America

  • Rate changes: This week, ocean freight rates between China and North America exhibited a moderate increase. The trend was more pronounced for the West Coast compared to the East Coast. There is a noticeable uptick in rates due to operational rerouting around the Red Sea, leading to longer transit times and heightened costs. Although rates haven’t spiked dramatically, the cumulative effect of surcharges and increased operational costs is expected to reflect in upcoming rate adjustments.
  • Market changes: The ocean freight market is currently under the influence of significant global disruptions, notably the diversions away from the Red Sea. This strategic move impacts the transit times and operational efficiency for services connecting Asia with North America’s East Coast. Additionally, the impending Lunar New Year is prompting shippers to adjust their schedules and pull forward volumes, potentially leading to a condensed peak season. Carriers are responding to these challenges with additional sailings and faster transits in other areas to mitigate delays. However, these adaptations may lead to short-term congestion and container shortages in Asian ports, affecting the market rhythm.


  • Rate changes: Freight rates on the China-Europe lane have shown signs of stabilization after previous fluctuations. Despite attempts to elevate rates through General Rate Increases and peak season surcharges, the actual impact has been tempered by ongoing market conditions, including changes in supply and demand dynamics and operational rerouting due to the Suez Canal crisis. The overall direction of rates is upward, reflecting the cost pressures from longer transit routes and operational adjustments.
  • Market changes: The Europe-China trade lane is facing a complex set of challenges, including the direct impact of longer transit times due to the rerouting of vessels away from the Red Sea. The industry’s reaction includes a series of surcharges and operational strategies to manage the longer journey times. Despite these challenges, there is a similar expectation of heightened activity in the lead-up to the Chinese Lunar New Year, which may temporarily alter the demand and supply balance.

Air freight/Express market update

China-US and Europe

  • Rate changes: Air freight rates have exhibited a mixed trend with some lanes experiencing a rise while others see a decline, reflecting a multifaceted demand and supply landscape. Specifically, air freight rates from China to North America have remained fairly stable, while those to North Europe have seen a decrease. The overall global air cargo rates, however, stand above pre-Covid levels, indicating a sustained demand for air freight amidst fluctuating market conditions.
  • Market changes: The air cargo market is adjusting to the ripple effects of ocean freight disruptions, with some urgency-driven shift towards air cargo noted. Despite this, there hasn’t been a substantial increase in air cargo rates, implying a cautious approach by shippers, as well as air carriers. As ocean freight faces longer transit times and increased costs due to strategic reroutes, air freight might see an uptick in demand for urgent shipments. The market is also witnessing a gradual recovery in tonnages and rates in some regions, indicating a stabilizing trend as the industry heads towards the end of the year.

Disclaimer: All information and views in this post are provided for reference purposes only and do not constitute any investment or purchase advice. The information quoted in this report is from public market documents and may be subject to change. Alibaba.com makes no warranties or guarantees for the accuracy or integrity of the information above.

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