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Freight Market Update: January 21, 2024

aerial view of the port of Singapore

Ocean freight market update

China-North America

  • Rate changes: Ocean freight rates between China and North America have experienced a notable increase, with the trend more pronounced on the West Coast compared to the East Coast. The escalation in rates can be attributed to several factors, including geopolitical tensions. The direction of future rate trends appears to be upward, albeit with some uncertainty due to fluctuating demand and supply dynamics.
  • Market changes: The market has seen a shift with significant impact on shipping routes and capacities. Recent events, notably security concerns in key maritime regions, continue to lead to rerouting of vessels, resulting in longer transit times and heightened operational costs. This has had a ripple effect on market rates and the availability of shipping options. Carriers are adapting to these changes, but the situation remains fluid with potential for further alterations in the near term.


  • Rate changes: The freight rates from China to Europe have shown stabilization after a period of volatility (albeit remaining at a significantly higher level compared to December). Despite earlier rate increases due to security issues, the demand has been relatively flat, influenced by economic factors in Europe such as inflation and inventory levels. Carriers are exploring rate adjustments and potential strategies to balance the market dynamics.
  • Market changes: The China-Europe ocean freight market is undergoing significant changes, largely influenced by the Red Sea crisis. This geopolitical event has necessitated the rerouting of vessels, leading to longer transit times and heightened costs. The situation is compounded by the existing overcapacity in the market, a result of an influx of large container vessels. While these vessels were introduced to meet high demand peaks, the current subdued demand has led to a surplus in shipping capacity. These factors combined are causing temporary fluctuations in freight rates and challenging the traditional dynamics of the China-Europe trade lane. Carriers are adapting by revising their operational strategies and routes, which will continue to result in short-term rate volatility. The outlook in this trade lane is cautious, as the industry continues to adjust to these ongoing geopolitical and market shifts.

Air freight/Express market update

China-US and Europe

  • Rate changes: Air freight rates from China to both the US and Europe have shown divergent trends. While rates to North America have maintained stability, there has been a noticeable decrease towards Europe. This reflects the differing market conditions and demand patterns in these regions. The overall trend suggests a softening of rates, with regional variations.
  • Market changes: The air freight market is currently navigating through a period of overcapacity, influenced by global economic factors and shifting trade policies. Changes in the trade policies by the United States and European countries towards China, including alterations in import tariffs and export controls, are impacting the volume and value of goods transported by air. Additionally, evolving environmental regulations and increasing focus on sustainable trade practices are leading to shifts in the types of goods shipped and the routes chosen. The Red Sea crisis, coupled with the upcoming Chinese New Year, has led to a complex scenario with potential impacts on sea-air freight dynamics. Despite an increase in inquiries for alternative shipping methods, there hasn’t been a significant shift in actual bookings. The situation remains dynamic, with potential for changes as the market responds to the evolving global trade environment.

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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