The air cargo sector is experiencing a robust start to 2024, buoyed by a surge in e-commerce and the ongoing disruptions in other transport channels. Notably, the global air cargo tonnage saw a significant uplift in April, marking a 3% rise from mid to late April, as reported by WorldACD. This rebound comes after a period of relative lull influenced by various global holidays, showcasing the dynamic nature of the air cargo market.

Notably, the boost in volume from Central and South America, mainly due to increased shipments of flowers in anticipation of Mother’s Day, played a substantial role in this uptick. This seasonal surge has helped offset the slower recovery in markets like the Middle East and South Asia, which still feel the effects of the post-Ramadan period. Despite these fluctuations, the average worldwide rates have remained steady at $2.50 per kg.

The air cargo sector has demonstrated a proactive approach in the face of maritime challenges, such as the recent disruptions in the Red Sea. It has strategically shifted towards more secure and reliable shipping options, showcasing its adaptability. This strategic planning and adaptability have led to an increased use of air cargo, particularly from key hubs in Asia to markets across Europe and North America. This ensures supply chain continuity and instills confidence in the sector’s operations.

Looking ahead into the latter quarters of 2024, the industry is not just anticipating a robust peak season but actively driving towards it. Shippers and forwarders are securing capacity in advance, and a noticeable shift towards shorter-term contracts allows for more flexibility in rate negotiations. This trend directly answers the unpredictable market conditions driven by geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainties.

Furthermore, legislative changes in the United States concerning e-commerce shipments could introduce new challenges to the air cargo sector. Proposed adjustments to de minimis regulations, which currently facilitate the tax-free import of low-value goods, could reshape the landscape of international commerce, affecting everything from pricing strategies to operational logistics. The proposed adjustments, which seek to lower the $800 threshold to a significantly reduced amount, could have substantial implications on the air cargo sector, potentially leading to increased customs checks, longer processing times, and elevated operational costs, thereby impacting the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of air freight for e-commerce.


  • Advance Capacity Booking: Secure air cargo capacity in advance to ensure availability during peak seasons. This proactive approach helps mitigate the risk of capacity shortages and allows for better rate negotiation.

  • Adopt Shorter-Term Contracts: Shift towards shorter-term contracts to maintain flexibility in rate negotiations. This strategy can better accommodate unpredictable market conditions and help manage costs effectively.

  • Monitor Legislative Changes: Stay informed about legislative changes, such as the proposed adjustments to de minimis regulations in the U.S. This awareness allows for timely adjustments in operational logistics and pricing strategies to mitigate potential impacts.


The European road haulage sector continues to navigate a landscape marked by escalating operational costs and challenging regulatory changes, significantly impacting the logistics chain. According to a recent Transport Intelligence (Ti) road freight survey, companies face steep increases in driver wages, vehicle maintenance, insurance, tolls, and fuel prices, which make up about a third of haulers’ operating costs. With such thin margins typical in the sector, these rising expenses are forcing transport companies to pass increased costs onto shippers, who then relay these costs to consumers.

This financial strain is pushing a record number of road haulage companies towards insolvency, exacerbated by a substantial truck driver shortage. The International Road Transport Union’s 2023 research highlights that over three million driver positions are unfilled, a situation projected to worsen without significant intervention.

Moreover, the sector is pressured to adopt digital and sustainable technologies to improve efficiencies and comply with environmental regulations. Investments in data analytics and alternative fuel vehicles could offset some operational costs and mitigate the financial impact of rising CO2 tolls across Europe.


  • Invest in Digital and Sustainable Technologies: Adopt data analytics and alternative fuel vehicles to improve efficiencies and comply with environmental regulations. These investments can offset operational costs and enhance competitiveness in the market.

  • Optimize Cost Management: Implement strategies to manage rising operational costs, such as renegotiating contracts and exploring cost-saving technologies. Effective cost management is crucial for maintaining profitability amidst increasing expenses.

  • Enhance Government Collaboration: Advocate for better governmental planning and infrastructure investment to support new border controls. Engaging with policymakers can help address regulatory challenges and improve operational efficiencies.

Additional Brexit Impact

Next, Britain’s new phytosanitary regulations have complicated the operations further, introducing significant delays and logistical challenges, particularly at the Sevington border facility. Technical issues between the Custom Declaration Service and the new Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) have led to significant queues and backlogs, disrupting the flow of goods. This situation underscores the inadequacy of having a single 24/7 processing facility, a point of contention among industry stakeholders advocating for better governmental planning and infrastructure investment to support the new border controls.

These challenges collectively underscore a critical period for the European road freight sector. Companies must manage rising costs, regulatory changes, and operational bottlenecks, all while exploring strategic investments in technology and sustainability to remain competitive and compliant in a rapidly evolving market.


Despite the significant flux in the European sea freight industry, it is a testament to its resilience. The industry is undergoing shifts characterized by tightened capacities and unexpected demand spikes on the Asia-Europe routes, reshaping contract and spot market dynamics. However, the industry’s unwavering ability to adapt is reassuring in these turbulent times.

Recent developments in the European import market, such as a restocking phase influenced by a stronger-than-anticipated consumption rate, have led to a 9% growth in European volumes. This trend aligns with the strategic adaptability of carriers like Maersk, who are witnessing rate increments to manage the burgeoning demand. For instance, Maersk’s new peak season surcharge (PSS) is set to triple from $500 per 40ft to $1,500 starting 11 May, reflecting their proactive approach to market dynamics.

Spot rates are also responding dynamically to these market conditions. According to Drewry’s World Container Index, rates on the Shanghai-Rotterdam leg increased by 2% week-on-week to $3,103 per 40ft, and Shanghai-Genoa saw a 3% rise to $3,717 per 40ft. Despite these increases, the tension between long-term contract commitments and higher-yielding spot cargoes is causing some shipments under long-term contracts to be rolled, prioritizing higher-paying spot cargoes.

The Red Sea crisis, a significant event involving a major shipping route, has added complexity to the European trade lanes. Necessitating diversions around the Cape of Good Hope, this crisis has pushed carriers to implement trade disruption surcharges. The industry’s response to these challenges, reflected in the escalation of surcharges and space tightening, underscores the need for strategic planning and adaptability in the face of major disruptions.

While pricing was raised earlier in the month on the transatlantic route, rates have since stabilized. For instance, the New York-Rotterdam return trip remained flat at $2,214 per forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU). However, the first quarter of the year marked a resurgence in volumes on the Europe-US east coast trade, with nearly 900,000 TEU transported, up 6.9% from the same period in 2023.

Amidst these operational challenges, Taiwanese carrier Evergreen and its Ocean Alliance partners are demonstrating their strategic adaptability. They are proactively redeploying ultra-large container vessels from the Far East-North Europe trade to the Mediterranean. In response to capacity reductions due to ongoing geopolitical tensions, this maneuver is increasing the reliance on Mediterranean hubs like Piraeus, showcasing their proactive approach to these challenges.



  • Flexibility in Contracting: Negotiate contracts with built-in flexibility to adapt to the fluctuating market conditions caused by unexpected demand spikes and tightened capacities on the Asia-Europe routes. Adjustable rates and terms can help manage costs and ensure service continuity in this dynamic environment.

  • Explore Alternative Ports and Carriers: Diversify your import/export routes and use multiple carriers to avoid dependency on a single route or provider. This approach reduces vulnerability to disruptions like the Red Sea crisis, ensuring smoother operations and better resilience against unexpected events.

  • Leverage 4PL Expertise: Utilize Fourth Party Logistics (4PL) providers to handle complex routing and increased compliance needs. Their expertise can help optimize your ocean freight operations, particularly in managing surcharges and adapting to rapid market shifts. This is crucial in light of the ongoing capacity and demand fluctuations on major trade lanes.


The ongoing conflict in Yemen, marked by recent U.S. and British strikes on Houthi targets, continues to complicate container shipping in the Red Sea, prompting shifts in global trade routes. Nearly a third of global container ship volumes initially transited through the Suez Canal, and a 90% reduction is seen. As a result, shipping rates have surged, with the Freightos Baltic Daily Index for China-Europe peaking at nearly $5,800 per forty-foot equivalent unit, reflecting a 260% increase since early 2024. Concurrently, rates from Shanghai to Rotterdam saw a near 200% rise.

Hence, some Chinese exporters bypass the protracted maritime route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, opting for rail solutions via the China-Europe Railway Express instead. This shift has significantly boosted rail volumes, with a reported 30% increase in January compared to the previous year. This modal shift is an effective alternative as rail costs align closely with the escalated ocean spot rates.

The market’s response to these changes will likely evolve post-Lunar New Year when China resumes its industrial activities. Analysts suggest that adjustments to accommodate the new route configurations stabilize, supported by a decrease in demand after the holiday. This adjustment period is critical for container shipping’s profitability, with the Red Sea conflict potentially enhancing shipping companies’ pricing power due to increased capacity utilization.


  • Explore Rail Solutions: Consider rail transport as an alternative to maritime routes, especially in light of disruptions like the Red Sea crisis. Rail can offer a cost-effective and reliable solution for certain trade routes.

  • Adjust Capacity Planning: Monitor changes in trade routes and adjust capacity planning accordingly. Staying agile in capacity management helps accommodate shifts in demand and ensures efficient utilization of resources.

  • Leverage Pricing Power: Utilize the increased capacity utilization to enhance pricing strategies. Optimizing pricing in response to market conditions can improve profitability and competitiveness in the rail freight sector.



Wiima Logistics is a provider of fourth-party logistics (4PL) services. The 4PL service provides the customer with a complete solution for supply chain management, administration and outsourcing.

4PL operations can be described as outsourcing the management and coordination of the entire supply chain – this allows the customer to focus on their core business.

Wiima staff will be more than happy to advise you in supply chain and logistics related matters. Our logistics experts and digital tools will provide you with a winning combination if you are looking for an effective and efficient logistics management setup.

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