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Market conditions are still very fluid, changing by the day and sometimes by the hour. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe, we’re seeing impacts in nearly every aspect of international shipping. We expect the next several weeks to be very volatile in terms of air/ocean space and pricing.


TPEB ocean spot rates are down slightly this week. There is still likely to be an increase in volume out of China in the coming weeks. Combined with additional blank sailings, rates are expected to rise by April 1st.

Current estimates show Chinese production is around 75-80% of full capacity. Air freight space is very tight and rates have increased significantly as of late. We’ve seen rates climbing higher this week, and they are subject to change daily.

India has taken serious action in response to the pandemic, first by cancelling all flights in/out, and most recently by announcing a strict 21-day lockdown of the entire country. No people or cargo are permitted to move during this period (beginning today, ending April 14) with the exception of emergency/essential goods. Remote work from home will continue but commercial activity will be severely limited. Please see attached guidelines for further information.

Based on the latest economic outlook, the prospects of a strong spring peak season are diminishing. However, early booking and forecasting are still critical. Carriers are planning more and more blank sailings to keep space tight and rates up in light of the expected slowdown in demand. It’s very important that our accounts know to place bookings early so we can plan for their allocation, especially in light of the current volatility we see in the market.


Most European countries are taking extreme measures to combat the pandemic as well; many are on some degree of lockdown, and commercial activity is very limited. Rail and truck service are strained due to worker shortages. Air cargo space has been extremely tight since the US-Europe travel ban was implemented. While more freighters are entering the market, the situation is not yet stable. Rates have come down from the initial surge after the travel ban announcement, but cargo is still moving on spot basis. The situation with ocean freight is slightly more stable, but equipment is scarce and space will be more difficult to secure as some air freight shippers pivot to ocean. Early booking and forecasting is critical on transatlantic lanes as well as TP. Please work with your customers and communicate any specific space needs to pricing.


Many states have issued shelter-in-place restrictions. Most logistics services are exempt (trucking, ports, airports, warehouses, forwarders/brokers), but many of our shippers and importers may be impacted. Please check with your accounts that ship to/from the states affected (CA, NY, OH, IL – the list is changing frequently) to ensure facilities are open for pickup and deliveries.

The lack of volume out of China has caused equipment shortages across the US and Europe. Equipment shortages will translate to rate increases on exports and difficulty securing containers, especially on short notice. Some carriers have announced rate increases on exports from the US to Asia, India, and the Middle East. We will see more increases on export lanes in the coming weeks.

Air freight rates out of the US are fluid and on spot basis only. Schedules and capacity are changing frequently. We’ve seen airlines institute strict cancellation policies to protect space; Qantas just announced the following policy, and other carriers may follow suit: If a booking is cancelled within 24 hours of the flight booked or a no-show, you will be charged the full amount quoted. This change will be effective from 26 March 2020.

The US truck market is beginning to feel the impacts of reduced inbound volume. With so many drivers working as independent contractors, there is potential for a trucker shortage in nearly all US markets in the coming weeks. Please be sure to communicate with your regular truckers about disruptions to volume as needed.


The cost of fuel has been declining as of late. We’ve seen carriers announce decreases in BAF/LSF charges on select lanes. We continue to monitor surcharge levels very closely. Please review the attached current surcharge sheet completely for a summary of expected changes.

We are also beginning to see Panama Canal surcharges due to low water levels at the crossing. Depending on the carrier, containers transiting the canal may be subject to a surcharge as of March/April, and weight restrictions may apply.

Many countries around the globe are dealing with coronavirus countermeasures and varying levels of restrictions. CVI’s overseas partners are operational, though many are working remotely. During this chaotic time, it can be difficult for agents to reach carriers (ocean, air, truck, etc), as carriers are impacted and often short-staffed as well. We are in contact with our partners on a regular basis, receiving updates from their perspectives. If you have any issue reaching an agent, please contact Pricing.

While we do anticipate a volatile spring with space shortages and rising rates, we’re keeping a close eye on the economy and potential impacts that reduced consumption will have on our industry. Forecasts from our customers are vital to understanding what the next few months will bring.

Please reach out to us or your customer service representative if you have any questions.


Thank you,

Rachel Shames

Director, Pricing and Procurement

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