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US freight forwarder Expeditors posted above-market volumes gains in the first quarter of this year, with revenues growing 77% year on year on the back of 29% growth in both ocean and air freight shipments.

The company is one of the largest freight buyers on the transpacific trades, which have been besieged by unprecedented levels of demand, married with persistent capacity constraint.

“Never before in our experience has capacity been so scarce in both air and ocean at the same time,” said Jeffrey Musser, Expeditors’ president and chief executive.

“As a result, shippers face unprecedented challenges with their supply chains, and we are doing everything we can to leverage the strength of our carrier relationships to secure space for our customers.

“The severity of the supply/demand imbalance has kept buy and sell rates elevated and volatile, in both the air and ocean markets. Shortages in international air capacity led to elevated pricing, port congestion and lack of equipment, which, coupled with a rapid spike in demand, created ocean trade disruptions and significant backlogs.

“These conditions leave shippers with limited options for getting their products to market,” he added.

Group revenues soared from $1.9bn in the first quarter of last year to $3.36bn in Q1 this year, while operating income jumped 142% year on year to $385.5m.

The firm revealed that air freight volumes grew 23% year on year in January and 32% in both February and March, putting Expeditors’ volume growth way above the market. According to WorldACD, global air freight volumes in January and February grew 0.9%, although yield was up 79% year on year.

Expeditors’ air freight revenues for the quarter more than doubled, to $1.48bn. And it was a similar picture in ocean freight – volumes grew 15% year on year in January, 22% in February and then jumped 54% in March, as the US import frenzy continued, and revenues nearly doubled, to $958m.

Mr Musser said: “We expect the operating environment to remain unsettled as long as constrained capacity and other disruptions, such as port congestion, the uneven lifting of pandemic-restrictions and rising fuel costs, continue to impact the movement of freight.

“History tells us that the supply/demand imbalance and rate volatility will stabilise over time. However, if the global response to Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that conditions can change rapidly in today’s interconnected marketplace,” he said.

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