We’re dealing with the same market challenges we have seen for the last several months, and the issues are becoming even more difficult in many areas.
Equipment and space out of Asia are still extremely scarce. Carriers are charging a variety of premium fees in exchange for space – some guaranteed, though many not. Shippers are paying $1000-2000 premiums over spot rate levels in many cases for their cargo to be prioritized. At this point, securing bookings for sailing before January is next to impossible. The situation for the new year is expected to be just as difficult. We will see the same challenges through Chinese New Year (CNY), beginning February 12, and beyond. Early booking and good forecasting is critical. Bookings must be placed at least one month in advance.
Global port congestion is contributing to the chaos on every trade lane. Most major ports are overwhelmed with volume and struggling to keep up. There are 20+ vessels anchored off the shore of LAX/LGB on any given day, waiting for an opening to berth. Labor and equipment shortages in the US are causing terminal dwell times to increase significantly; at LAX/LGB, it takes 7-10 days on average for a container to become available for pick up. These delays are forcing carriers to omit port calls and implement blank sailings to make up for lost time and avoid further schedule changes. Schedule delays are so common that we see them on nearly every ocean shipment moving lately.
Air freight from Asia remains very strong, particularly from China. We are still experiencing the peak holiday shipping rush, and that demand is expected to continue through CNY. Services and capacity are still quite limited. US handling warehouses are struggling and overwhelmed, similar to the situation at the ports. We are seeing huge delays and problems with lost/misplaced cargo at ORD and JFK. There is simply so much freight and not enough space or labor to handle it all.
Record import volumes are very likely to last at least through mid-2021, possibly longer. With US consumers still under pandemic restrictions, spending far less on services and far more on goods, huge demand will persist. Retailers are reporting a strong holiday season so far and there are no signs of slowing demand, despite the recession. We may well see current conditions continue through most or all of 2021. Annual contract negotiations will no doubt be impacted by the market changes we have witnessed over the last year.
We should all be prepared for a continuation of the existing pattern in the long term.
The situation in Europe mirrors that of Asia. Equipment is next to impossible to find. One carrier, just halted reefer equipment release from depots across Germany and Austria, and stopped all 40GP dry equipment release from Hamburg port for the duration of 2020. Bookings not yet confirmed will be accommodated in January at the earliest. Rates are increasing as carriers add equipment imbalance surcharges later this month.
Europe is seeing its own issues with port congestion as well. The UK is severely congested, and carriers have implemented extra fees to cover additional costs at those ports. Congestion and delays are spilling over into other North Europe ports, causing the same vessel delays we see on the Transpacific Trade.
Much of the EU will begin their extended holiday period on December 18, which will last through the first week of January. Operations will slow significantly during this time. We expect a large backlog when companies reopen around January 10; the equipment and space shortages will persist. The bottlenecks are likely to become even more challenging well into Q1.
Export space on all trades is a growing problem. Carriers are still repositioning empty equipment to Asia, and blank/changing sailings due to port congestion delays worldwide are making it very difficult to secure space. Export bookings should be placed 2-4 weeks in advance to secure space.
The huge volumes inundating our ports and airports are resulting in serious trucker and chassis shortages. In many markets such as LAX/LGB, Norfolk, NYC, Memphis, Kansas City, and Savannah, capacity is fully booked at least 2 weeks in advance. In Columbus and Cincinnati, chassis are extremely scarce. FTL and specialized trucking rates are climbing. Please be sure all truck needs are booked well in advance, minimum of 2-3 weeks prior to cargo arrival or ready date of export.
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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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