Conditions in the ocean freight market are deteriorating, unfortunately, across all trade lanes. A combination of record volumes and disruption from the Ever Given Suez Canal incident have led to historic equipment shortages and overbooked vessel space.
On the Transpacific Eastbound trade, shippers are bracing for extreme conditions in May. Equipment availability and vessel space are roughly half the usual levels. Most vessels sailing in May are already completely full. Any available space will be allocated to shippers paying the highest freight rates, including premium and diamond level surcharges which are as high as $5000+ per FEU, on top of regular FAK rates. There will be very limited fixed, long-term contract space available for booking over the next 6+ weeks.
Space to the US east coast will be especially difficult. No additional east coast services were introduced to the market in 2021, despite huge demand growth. The gulf coast is similarly oversubscribed. Space to US west coast ports is better, relatively speaking, though still very tight. Carriers are not entertaining new long-term, fixed-rate contract opportunities at this point. It’s becoming clear that most carriers have already over-signed contract volumes and they cannot honor allocation commitments. We expect most cargo shipping through May and much of June will require high FAK or premium rate levels.
Transatlantic Westbound equipment and space is no better, unfortunately. Most carriers have put a stop on bookings through May at this point. Many are canceling previously confirmed bookings due to lack of equipment. Earliest possible sailings for most lanes are mid to late June, regardless of rate level and premium add-ons.
US exports are strong, and vessel space is booked up a full month in advance on most trade lanes. Equipment availability is tough, especially at inland points.
On the domestic side, port congestion is still a major issue, especially at west coast ports. Rail delays are increasingly problematic; some containers are sitting at ports for 60+ days waiting for transfer to the rail. Trucker capacity remains extremely tight as well, with 3-4 week booking windows required for most locations.
The demand outlook for the next several months remains very strong. US inventory levels are at 25-year lows, and there is still huge demand for imported goods. Recent US GDP projections for 2021 are exceptionally high at 6-7%. If the market continues on this track, we expect space and equipment challenges, as well as high rate levels, to persist through the end of the year.
Please be sure to communicate your shipping needs as early as possible – at least one month prior to desired ship date.
Your CVI team is here to assist you through these current market challenges. Ocean freight, air freight, domestic road/rail, and Customs Compliance – count on our dedicated professionals to care for you and your supply chain. Call us and let us show you what we can do!
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Rachel serves as Director, Pricing and Procurement for CVI. Her responsibilities include vendor selection, contract management and negotiation, transportation pricing, FMC compliance, and international agent network management.
Rachel began her career in international shipping with CMA-CGM America. She joined CVI in 2011, gaining experience in various departments with a focus on inside sales and marketing for the company. In 2014, Rachel assumed the role of Manager, Transportation, working on service procurement and development of client proposals. She has served in her current position since 2018.
A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2005. She holds a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Maritime and Supply Chain Management from Old Dominion University.
– Rachel Shames, Director, Pricing & Procurement, CVI
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