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Freight Market Update: January 5, 2024

A plane flies over the cargos

Ocean freight market update

China-North America

  • Rate changes: Ocean rates have experienced a notable increase in the recent period. Rates for Asia to US West Coast and East Coast have seen a significant uptick, proportionately higher for the West Coast routes. Despite the rise, the future trend remains uncertain with the ongoing geopolitical and economic variables impacting these trade lanes. A directional forecast suggests a cautious outlook due to these unpredictable elements.
  • Market changes: The market has witnessed strategic route diversions and operational shifts in response to geopolitical tensions in key shipping areas, affecting lead times and costs. Some carriers are reducing the free time allowed for containers in North American ports to expedite the return of equipment, reflecting a strategy to mitigate against extended transit times and equipment shortages. A subdued peak season is anticipated, with the potential for gradual adjustments as the situation evolves.


  • Rate changes: Ocean freight rates from China to North Europe and the Mediterranean regions shot up significantly at the beginning of the year, amid attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Asia-N. Europe prices increased 150%, and Asia-Mediterranean prices increased 108%, according to the Freightos Baltic Index. Rates may continue to fluctuate, closely tied to the geopolitical situation in the region, as well as demand and supply changes.
  • Market changes: Maersk and CMA CGM were the only two carriers resuming sailings in the Red Sea last week. But following attacks on its container ship over the weekend, Maersk again suspended all transits through the Red Sea. The temporary halt of Maersk and other carrier services in the region has caused a considerable increase in freight costs on these routes (and significant delays due to diversion) for the time being. In the longer term, the European market is adjusting to increased supply with new ultra-large container vessels entering service, impacting the rate structure and overall market dynamics. 

Air freight/Express market update

China-US and Europe

  • Rate changes: The air freight market between China and North America and Europe reflects a mixed trend. While rates to North America have remained relatively stable, those to North Europe have seen a decline. This is attributed to varying demand patterns and operational adjustments in response to the broader economic climate. The forecast suggests a continued focus on adjusting capacity to meet fluctuating demands, with potential for rate volatility.
  • Market changes: The air freight market is currently navigating through an overcapacity challenge, with some carriers adjusting their operations accordingly. The market is also experiencing a shift in demand towards sea-air services and alternative air cargo options due to delays in ocean freight. This shift is leading to a dynamic and evolving market landscape, with carriers and shippers seeking to optimize their logistics strategies. The directional forecast points towards a gradual stabilization of rates as the market adapts to these new demand patterns.

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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