Market Update, Shipping Costs, and Delays
In October 2023, the dynamics of global logistics continue to evolve, impacting inflationary pressures and trade patterns. While extremely elevated logistics costs were a significant contributor to inflation during the pandemic, there have been notable shifts in the market since the spring of 2022.
Ocean freight prices, particularly China-West Coast US rates, have experienced a downward trend, recently reaching pre-pandemic levels. The volumes of imported containers to the US saw a decline through November 2022, and congestion, particularly at key ports like LA/Long Beach, significantly eased, returning to normal levels in late November.
According to Freightos data, the rates for shipping a 40-ft container from Asia to the US West Coast have dropped by over 80% since the end of April 2022. Similarly, prices to the East Coast have fallen by almost two-thirds. One of the main drivers behind this decline in logistics costs is a reduction in consumer spending, which has impacted sales among many importers over the last two years.
Recent data indicates a 5% dip in Asia-US West Coast ocean rates, while Asia-Europe prices are starting to decline this week. The decline in prices during early September, a time when demand typically increases in anticipation of China’s early October Golden Week holiday, may suggest that demand is easing, and the peak ocean freight season for the year may have already passed.
The US West Coast’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members have officially ratified a new six-year contract, resolving a dispute that began last July. However, some of the volumes that shifted to the East Coast and Gulf ports during the dispute may not fully return. Meanwhile, the East Coast and Gulf’s International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) port worker union is a year away from the end of its contract with port operators, and negotiations are set to commence soon.
In the air cargo sector, the seasonal lull combined with overall low demand is leading to volumes below pre-pandemic levels at some of Europe’s major hubs. Despite this, optimism exists within the industry, as upcoming electronics product launches are expected to drive a potential peak season rebound in the coming months.
Stay tuned for the comprehensive monthly freight market update for October, as we delve into the latest developments shaping the global logistics landscape.
Ocean freight market update & forecast for November 2023
Ocean rates from Asia continued their upward trajectory last week, rebounding from October lows as carriers adjust capacity to align with reduced volumes in Q4. Hapag-Lloyd forecasts a 3% global volume decline this year, followed by a 4% increase in the next, accompanied by an 8% capacity growth this year and a 6-9% expansion next year. This projection suggests a persisting overcapacity issue, likely extending beyond the upcoming year. The recent transit reductions in the Panama Canal have triggered congestion, affecting some North-South perishable trade routes, albeit without a significant impact on major container carriers so far.
Meanwhile, transatlantic volumes experienced a notable 27% annual decline in September. Although there was a demand improvement in October, rates remain 43% lower than 2019 levels due to the limited impact of blank sailings on rate increases.
In the air freight sector, Freightos Air Index data reveals a 3% decline in China-North America prices, maintaining an elevated level at $5.56/kg. Conversely, China-North Europe rates saw a 20% decrease, returning to early-September levels. These dynamics in the air and ocean freight markets reflect the complexities and challenges faced by the industry, emphasizing the need for strategic planning and adaptability in the ever-evolving global trade landscape.
Ocean rates – Freightos Baltic Index:
- Asia-US West Coast prices (FBX01 Weekly) increased 6% to $1,711/FEU.
- Asia-US East Coast prices (FBX03 Weekly) climbed 3% to $2,421/FEU.
- Asia-N. Europe prices (FBX11 Weekly) increased 11% to $1,381/FEU.
- Asia-Mediterranean prices (FBX13 Weekly) climbed 1% to $1,551/FEU.
Asia – US West Coast rates ticked down 5% last week despite ongoing capacity reductions suggesting a weakening of volumes at a time of year – the last few weeks before China’s Golden Week holiday – that typically sees some increase in demand from volumes pulled forward to avoid the manufacturing and logistics slowdown in China over the early-October break. Weakening demand would support the observation that this year’s short and relatively modest peak is behind us.
Analysis suggests that carriers are also partially keeping rates up – and above 2019 levels – through an increase of rejections despite reports that vessels are sailing at only 80% of capacity, and the no-show of proposed September GRIs or Peak Season Surcharges so far, are additional signs that volumes are declining and that carriers may be looking toward Lunar New Year in February for the next rebound.
Carriers are increasing ex-China blanked sailings over the Golden Week lull, which is typical, but some carriers announced additional Asia-Europe blankings for early September as well, implying that no pre-holiday bump in demand has materialized on this lane either. Though Asia-N. Europe rates were stable last week, daily rates this week have declined about 7%.
On the labor front, the US West Coast’s ILWU members officially ratified their new six-year contract last week, ending the dispute that started last July, though some of the volumes that shifted to the East Coast and Gulf ports as a result of the conflict may not be coming back. At the same time, the East Coast and Gulf port worker union, the ILA, is a year away from the end of its contract with port operators and will begin negotiations soon.
These are container freight rates for the second week of April 2023 according to the Freightos Baltic Index:
|FBX Lane||Global||Asia – US West Coast||Asia – US East Coast||Asia – North Europe||North Europe – US East Coast|
|* Compared to the corresponding week in 2022|
NRF shows March volumes projected to have fallen nearly 30% from a year ago, reflected in transpacific rates that were stable last week but about 90% lower than a year ago and well below 2019 levels as well.
Asia med rates which had remained higher than those on other lanes have fallen and are nearly on par with 2019 levels. Rates are likely reaching their floor as carriers have increased steps to reduce capacity – with reports that ships are sailing on the transpacific and from Asia to Europe nearly full.
Watch the video below to learn what to expect as we move into 2023:
Looking for live quotes from vetted providers?
Freight cost changes from 2020-2023
The past few years have been volatile for shippers around the world. At the beginning of the pandemic, attempts to hedge against dramatic rate drops via capacity management contributed to an increase in prices when consumer demand shot up in the summer of 2020.
Now two years into the supply chain crisis, rates have dropped significantly – although on some lanes prices are still much higher than they were pre-pandemic.
For a bird’s eye view of freight cost increases in 2022 and since the beginning of serious supply chain disruptions, check out the chart below based on FBX data.
Air freight market update, delays, cost increases, and forecast for 2023
The seasonal lull combined with overall low demand is pushing volumes below pre-pandemic levels at some of Europe’s major hubs, though some in the industry are hopeful that electronics product launches set to begin soon could drive some peak season rebound in the coming months nonetheless.
Air rates – Freightos Air index
- China – N. America weekly prices decreased 3% to $5.56/kg
- China – N. Europe weekly prices fell 20% to $3.38/kg.
- N. Europe – N. America weekly prices climbed 1% to $1.84/kg.
Looking for live quotes from vetted providers?
Amazon shipping costs in 2023
Keeping up with door-to-door pricing for Amazon FBA shipping can be a hassle. With data from thousands of weekly pricing points from freight forwarders, we’ve developed a weekly index of freight prices including for Less than Container Load (LCL), Full Container Load (FCL), and air cargo, from major export cities in southeast Asia to the most popular Amazon fulfillment centers in the US.
Want to know what the rates are instantly? Check out Freightos.com’s FBAX, the Amazon FBA freight index.
With data from thousands of weekly pricing points from freight forwarders, we’ve developed a weekly index of freight prices including for Less than Container Load (LCL), Full Container Load (FCL), and air cargo, from major export cities in southeast Asia to the most popular Amazon fulfillment centers in the US.
Read up on how Amazon sellers can deal with rapidly changing consumer demands as well as inventory challenges HERE.
Will shipping prices keep going down?
In the current situation, many importers and exporters are wondering when they can expect freight rates and shipping prices to level off. The answer? Not yet.
But, despite potential delays and volatile freight shipping costs, there are a few steps importers can take right now:
How to navigate the current freight market:
- Compare at least a few quotes and modes to make sure you are getting the best cost and most efficient service possible.
- Buffer your freight budget and transit time for changes. Costs due to unforeseen delays or limited capacity can arise, so be prepared.
- Explore warehousing options to mitigate the effects of lowered demand and business restrictions in the US.
- Pay attention to the profitability of your goods and consider if a pivot could be worthwhile. Additionally, remember to factor in freight costs when assessing profitability.
How small or midsize importers can plan for operational success on Freightos.com:
- Understand that delays and extra charges may arise. Freight forwarders are trying their best to move goods on schedule without additional fees, but in this unstable period, delays and additional charges can occur out of forwarders’ control.
- Consider which shipping mode is best for you right now. During non-pandemic times, ocean freight is typically far cheaper but has a significant lead time. If your transit time demands it, ship by air and you’ll have confidence in the transit times.
- Book now if you can. Freightos.com is fully operational, so book orders now to get goods moving as quickly as possible.
- Communicate regularly with your freight forwarder. This is more important than ever – staying in touch means you’ll have a better handle on your transit time and stay on top of any changes that may arise.
- Make sure that you have the manpower to accept your goods upon arrival. This will minimize delays.
How to stay informed:
- Keep up to date on the industry with our weekly freight market update.
- Check out our daily FBX ocean rates index to help you stay on top of freight rates in 2023.
As always, we at Freightos.com are here to help. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.