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Freight Market Update: November 24, 2023

container freight transport

Ocean freight market update

China-North America

  • Rate changes: The ocean freight rates from China to North America have shown distinct trends on different coasts. According to the Drewry World Container Index, China to the US West Coast rates declined by 3%, while those to the East Coast decreased by 2%. This suggests a softening market, potentially influenced by geopolitical tensions and ongoing shifts in trade patterns. Looking ahead, the market might see rates stabilizing or slightly fluctuating in response to demand and supply dynamics.
  • Market changes: The market has seen a shift in import patterns, with a notable increase in container throughput at the US West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, indicating a possible reversion from East to West Coast preferences. This change could be driven by various factors, including improved confidence in the reliability of West Coast ports and ongoing draught restrictions at the Panama Canal. As carriers like Zim relaunch services like the South China-LA ZEX express, it’s indicative of a market adapting to these shifts, with potential implications for future trade flows and logistics strategies.


  • Rate changes: The situation in the China-Europe trade lane contrasts starkly with the China-North America route. Rates have been under pressure, with carriers struggling amid an oversupply of large vessels and weak demand. This has led to carriers considering laying up ships ahead of the Chinese New Year to address cash burn, as reported by The Loadstar. The Asia-Europe services are bleeding the most, suggesting a challenging market environment going forward.
  • Market changes: The market dynamics in this lane are complex, with carriers playing hardball, threatening service suspension as they grapple with ultra-low spot rates, and challenging annual contract negotiations. This tactic signifies a crucial juncture in carrier strategies, moving beyond traditional methods like blank sailings and slow steaming to more drastic measures like suspending services. This shift could significantly impact supply chain reliability and planning for shippers in this lane.

Air freight/Express market update

China-US and Europe

  • Rate changes: In the air freight sector, the situation is quite dynamic. There’s been a gradual post-summer rise in air cargo prices with global tonnages stabilizing slightly above last year’s levels. Particularly, rates from China to the US and Europe have seen significant fluctuations, with the Freightos Air Index indicating a 6% decrease in China-N. America rates and a 25% increase in China-N. Europe rates. Such volatility reflects the changing demand patterns in these trade lanes, influenced partly by e-commerce shipments.
  • Market changes: E-commerce has emerged as a key driver in the air freight market, with major players influencing demand trends. Larger forwarders have been slow to adapt to this shift, resulting in lost opportunities in this booming sector. The evolving landscape of air freight, marked by a focus on smaller, high-yield B2C shipments, is reshaping the industry’s focus and strategies. This trend, along with operational disruptions like those caused by severe weather, is creating a complex environment for air freight operators, demanding agility and innovation in handling cargo and managing logistics networks.

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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