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Freight Market Update: January 26, 2024

cargo containers at night

Ocean freight market update

China–North America

  • Rate changes: Over the past week, spot rates for ocean shipping from Asia to North America have continued to rise. Notably, rates to the east coast experienced a more significant week-over-week percentage increase, nearing 20%, compared to the west coast. Industry analysts suggest that ocean freight disruptions and cost increases may be approaching their peak.
  • Market changes: The current rate increases are primarily driven by diversions away from the Red Sea and the impending Lunar New Year. Many shippers are keen to move goods before the holiday shutdown, while others are canceling orders in anticipation of potential eased rates and disruptions after the Lunar New Year. While congestion at destinations appears to be clearing up, with most North American ports reporting closed gaps in arrivals, on the origin side, some ports face equipment and container shortage issues.


  • Rate changes: The shipping lanes from Asia to North Europe and the Mediterranean continue to experience weeks-long rate increases, directly influenced by the Red Sea crisis. The lanes to the Mediterranean saw another close to 25% increase in the past week but have started trending slightly lower as carriers aim to fill up ships before the holiday shutdown in China. With demand intensifying as the Lunar New Year approaches, rates may continue to climb in the next week or two before showing signs of stabilization.
  • Market changes: Rerouting of vessels and containers through the Cape of Good Hope has increased transit time and operational costs, contributing to the persistence of higher rates. Operational challenges abound including vessel downsizing, equipment shortages, and schedule changes. Shippers should proactively anticipate and manage these issues and when needed, consider premium services for time-sensitive and/or high-value shipments to mitigate risks.

Air freight/Express market update

China–US and Europe

  • Rate changes: The global airfreight index has extended its slight decrease in the past week, with rates from China to both North America and Europe easing within the range of 5-10%. The ongoing shifts from ocean freight modes and the anticipated increase in volume leading up to the Lunar New Year will likely drive demand up in the short term. However, predicting their specific impact on pricing proves challenging.
  • Market changes: The global air cargo tonnage has witnessed a robust recovery since the beginning of the year, possibly influenced by ocean shipping disruptions in the Red Sea, which was also evident in a notable surge in Asia Pacific outbound volumes (similar trends have been reported in railway transportation). The fact that these demand increases did not result in higher prices indicates an intricate interaction among global air cargo market demand, capacity, and pricing dynamics. 

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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