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Freight Market Update: May 24, 2024

busy port

Ocean freight market update

China-North America

  • Rate changes: Freight rates from China to the US West and East Coasts have shown significant increases over the past weeks. Rates to the West Coast surged by nearly 40% since the end of April, while East Coast rates rose by about 30% in the same period. These increases are driven by unseasonal demand spikes and capacity constraints due to port congestion and Red Sea diversions. Despite the addition of new vessels to the fleet, the market is still strained, leading to consistent rate hikes announced by major carriers for the upcoming months.
  • Market changes: The container market is experiencing heightened demand as North American importers pull forward peak season shipments to avoid potential disruptions later in the year. This surge in demand, coupled with ongoing port congestion and vessel delays, has led to significant operational challenges. Carriers are skipping port calls to maintain schedules, resulting in empty container shortages and increased congestion at key transshipment hubs like Singapore and Malaysia. These market conditions are expected to persist, with further rate increases likely as carriers attempt to manage capacity constraints and schedule reliability.


  • Rate changes: Freight rates from China to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean have climbed significantly, with Northern Europe rates increasing by around 50% since April. Mediterranean rates have also surged, reaching levels more than triple those of 2019. This dramatic rise is attributed to strong restocking demand in Europe and limited capacity availability. Futures market data indicates that these elevated rates will likely continue through the peak season, with major carriers planning additional rate increases in June.
  • Market changes: The European market faces similar capacity challenges, with a notable shortage of vessel space and containers. Despite the deployment of new ultra-large container vessels, these additions have not sufficiently eased the supply-demand imbalance. Port congestion in key European gateways further exacerbates the situation, leading to delays and increased operational costs. Market analysts predict that these conditions will persist, potentially leading to further rate hikes as carriers struggle to meet the robust demand.

Air freight/Express market update

China-US and Europe

  • Rate changes: Air freight rates from China to North America remained stable overall recently, while rates to Europe rebounded by approximately 10%. Rates for other key routes, such as from South Asia to North America and Europe, showed mixed trends with some declines observed. Notably, rates from Shanghai‘ lines to North America have increased significantly, reflecting strong demand for air cargo services in the face of ocean freight delays.
  • Market changes: The air freight market is facing overcapacity issues, with several carriers grounding freighters in anticipation of a potential rebound later in the year. The US has taken steps to address air cargo congestion by allocating significant funds for airport infrastructure improvements, although it will take time to see the full impact of these investments. Despite these measures, capacity constraints and demand fluctuations continue to influence rate trends.

Additionally, airlines are making strategic moves to optimize their fleets, such as acquiring new freighters and adjusting flight schedules to better align with market demand. .

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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