On the wires: Shadowboxing in the South China Sea
Geopolitical (and shipping-related) risk: be ready to play the long game.
The air freight market is “going nuts”, with “monstrous rates”, with lanes into the US particularly affected.
Volumes out of China have been increasing “week by week”, said one Shanghai forwarder.
“The US market is the worst in terms of the rate level, while Hong Kong to the US could soon be more than HK$100 (US$12.88) per kg.”
As ever, higher yields to the US are attracting carriers to the routes. As one forwarder explained: “When the US gets busy, the rest of the world suffers as capacity is absorbed onto higher-rate American lanes.”
The Chinese forwarder added that airlines like IAG Cargo, ever on the search for higher yields, have looked to take a large chunk of the well-priced North American market.
Demand has been heightened by the relaxation of lockdowns in some countries – but also hi-tech volumes. The Chinese forwarder said Apple began a large movement of goods two weeks ago in readiness for October’s planned iPhone 12 launch.
“By the way, those rapid Covid test kits are still everywhere here, on their way to Europe,” he added, noting that the airport terminal was currently full of trucks waiting to drop off the kits for export.
A forwarder in Singapore added that China’s main airports, along with those in Vietnam and Thailand, “are all facing high demand with limited supply”.
“Rates to Europe and the US are still at a relatively high level,” he added.
Forwarders have also reported sky-high charter rates, again, in particular to the US from both Europe and Asia.
“The charter market has gone crazy too, in particular the transatlantic. Rates are monstrous – and that’s if you can get a plane within 10 days,” said one.
“Air freight is generally mega busy in all directions. Demand has gone boom, and rates are climbing higher and faster than Sherpa Tenzing up Everest.”
The Chinese forwarder said express and ecommerce were also facing delays.
“All the major express companies are suffering huge parcel delays, in general they are more than a week slower than usual. And courier prices have increased by 20%-30% as well.”
He added that e-commerce volumes to the UK, which can no longer travel with EU shipments, had required “multiple charters, on fixed schedule flights from China’s inland cities to Heathrow”.
He concluded: “Anyway, there are no positive signs of any improvement of the air market over the next couple of weeks. Space is full until next week, and no doubt next Monday we will see another round of rate increases as we get towards the 1 May [US] Labour Day holiday.
“And as far as I know, none of the airlines have cancelled flights for then, which normally some might do.”