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Ocean & Air market insights – November 2021

Ocean: port congestion, power cuts and upcoming holidays continue to have impact.

  • As predicted last month, delays and port congestion continue threatening a recovery in schedule reliability, capacity, and rates. Beacon data indicates the average FEWB transit time has risen by almost 20% from last year.  With delays occurring at both origin (power outages, holiday demand, and a typhoon in south China) and destination (congested waterways, container yards, and trucking shortages) vessels are currently waiting between 3-10 days to berth1
  • Overall, capacity remains constricted, with 12.5% of global volumes effectively removed due to these widespread delays2. To counter this, carriers are trying to add equipment into Asia, whilst port omissions are becoming frequent in the North Europe and the UK, as ports like Felixstowe pile up3
  • Rates have continued to plateau with -2.6% MoM change, bringing them to an average of $17,396 per FEU in October. This might be attributed to last minute cancellations as a result of the power crisis in China, however, once this situation is remedied, we expect freight rates to rise again through to Q1 20224.

1. Financial Times, Waiting game: where are the world’s worst port delays, link
2. Sea Intelligence, GLobal capacity now unavailable, link
3.  Financial Times, Maersk diverts big cargo ships from UK as Felixstowe fills up, link
4. Lloyds Loading List, Ocean freight market eases briefly, link

Air: measures against Covid and surges in demand continue restricting capacity and driving rates up.

  • Q4 2021 is presenting one of the highest peaks the industry has seen, with global air cargo volumes (based on cargo tonne kilometres, CTK) up by 26% YoY for Q3 (and up 9% on pre-pandemic volumes)1.
  • Capacity: new consumer items and technical product launches for Christmas continue combining with ocean freight disruptions and airport closures to drive capacity constraints. Strict Covid-control measures at Hong Kong airport have resulted in cancellations and a backlog of cargo, leading to a delay of 3-5 days2. Airlines are providing additional cargo-only passenger flights to meet this rising demand. 
  • Rates: lack of capacity and high demand continue impacting air rates, which increased almost 20% MoM in October (Asia-Europe)3. As peak season draws nearer we expect rates to increase again. At an average cost of 3x more than ocean freight,  air still presents a good alternative to ocean, if possible.

Source: IATA
CTK = Cargo tonne kilometers
ACTK = Available cargo tonne kilometers
*2021 YoY compares against 2019 data

1. IATA, Monthly air freight analysis
2. Loadstar, Strong peak season volume increases at HKIA, link
3. Lloyds Loading List, Air freight high rates and capacity squeeze continues, link

H2 2021 > plan ahead and prioritise shipments in the last push before New Year

  • Prioritise shipments. Now is the final window for prioritising shipments to avoid missing out before year end. Plan ahead to ensure your most valuable cargo and largest shipments arrive in time for the holidays. 
  • Brexit and customs clearance. With Brexit’s year long ‘cooling period’ ending in January 2022, customs regulations are set to become more stringent, and as a result may increase delays to the UK (imports and deliveries) particularly around food and agricultural items. 
  • Visibility platform. With a digitally connected supply chain, it’s easier to make informed decisions about prioritising goods and spreading shipments. Transit times are something we recommend asking for, as port congestion and haulier issues continue to cause global delays.