The air freight industry experienced a notable increase in volumes this January, primarily influenced by the ongoing Red Sea crisis and the approach of the Chinese New Year. Despite this surge in demand, average rates showed a downward trend.

Data from Xeneta revealed a significant 10% year-on-year rise in global air cargo volumes last month, indicating a robust start to the year. Fourkites also reported a substantial increase in tracked air freight shipments since mid-January. However, the abundant capacity through the dedicated cargo planes and passenger plane bellies has meant that these higher volumes have not yet resulted in increased rates. January’s general air cargo spot rates saw a 12% drop from the previous month, averaging $2.27 per kg.

The demand is growing for airfreight, particularly on routes where multimodal and sea-air transport can mitigate delays caused by the Red Sea situation. Hubs like Singapore, Dubai (Jebel Ali), and Seattle are seeing heightened activity, with Jebel Ali emerging as a critical node for sea-air connections.

Despite the volume increase, January traditionally sees less pressure on capacity, which explains the lack of significant rate hikes. However, some specific air cargo spot rates have risen, particularly from northeast Asia to Europe, reaching $3.42 per kg in late January. This spike may be linked to e-commerce demand, with companies like Shein and Temu contributing significantly to airfreight volumes.

While traditional air cargo sectors faced challenges in 2023, e-commerce remained robust. E-commerce will continue to drive air cargo in 2024, potentially accounting for a significant portion of total tonnage.

The air freight industry has recently grown adaptable to market volatility, moving from seasonal rate setting to more dynamic pricing. This shift is evident in the industry’s response to the Red Sea crisis but also reflects broader trends in air cargo. A potential normalization in both air and ocean volumes and rates is expected post-February, provided market stability returns.


  • Capitalize on Dynamic Pricing: With air freight rates showing a downward trend despite volume increases, companies should capitalize on dynamic pricing models to secure competitive rates.
  • Prioritize Routes with Stable Rates: Focus on routes and hubs less impacted by rate fluctuations, such as Singapore, Dubai (Jebel Ali), and Seattle, for more predictable costs.
  • Explore Sea-Air Multimodal Solutions: To circumvent delays from the Red Sea situation, consider sea-air multimodal solutions that offer a balance between cost and speed.
  • Invest in E-commerce Capabilities: Given the robust growth in e-commerce driving air cargo volumes, investing in e-commerce logistics capabilities can position companies to take advantage of this trend.


After a challenging final quarter in 2023, ocean carriers have already rebounded into profitability this year, thanks to significant rate hikes and surcharges in response to supply chain disruptions due to the Red Sea crisis. However, the sustainability of these profits remains in question, particularly given the ongoing issue of overcapacity and the longer transit times required for detours around the Cape of Good Hope.

Also, the spot rates from Asia to Europe have recently seen a dip, as transpacific rates are now gradually stabilizing. This indicates the start of a downward trend in rates. Despite this decline, rates in both trading lanes remain substantially higher than historical norms.

The pre-Chinese New Year demand surge is muted for now, which will be followed by a leaner period for exporters in China at the end of February. This will lead to unutilized capacities, impacting the rates despite the Red Sea issues. Analysts suggest that the peak impact of the Red Sea disruption might have passed. This suggests a potential easing of rates moving forward.

Year-on-year comparisons show a significant rate increase, influencing the coming transpacific contract negotiations. Post-Chinese New Year, a further reduction in spot rates is anticipated, although they are unlikely to revert to levels seen before the recent crisis because the rate adjustment will likely include the added costs of longer shipping routes and a rebalancing of supply and demand.

On the transatlantic route, attempts by carriers to boost rates have not been successful, with average rates remaining relatively low. This suggests a different market dynamic compared to the Asia-Europe and transpacific lanes.



  • Evaluate Contracts and Negotiate Flexibility: Given the fluctuating spot rates and the potential easing of rates, companies should review their contracts with ocean carriers. Negotiating flexibility in rate adjustments and surcharge applications could save costs in the long term.
  • Diversify Shipping Routes and Carriers: To mitigate risks associated with the Red Sea crisis and overcapacity, diversifying shipping routes and carriers could ensure more stable supply chain operations.
  • Monitor Rate Trends Closely: With the expectation of rate adjustments post-Chinese New Year, companies should closely monitor trends to identify optimal booking times.
  • Leverage Spot Market Opportunistically: The dip in spot rates offers an opportunity to leverage the spot market for short-term cost savings, while keeping an eye on long-term contracts for stability.
  • Plan for Capacity Fluctuations: Anticipate and plan for unutilized capacities, especially after the Chinese New Year, to avoid potential rate impacts.


The European road freight sector faces a rough start to the year, marked by widespread protests and regulatory delays. The World Road Transport Organisation (IRU) has highlighted the growing concerns over the free movement of goods as farmers and truckers across the EU stage protests. France and Germany are experiencing significant disruptions, with roadblocks threatening the timely delivery of essential goods like food and medicine.

These protests, driven by demands for fair pricing and opposition to environmental legislation, highlight deeper issues within the road freight industry, including driver safety. Recent tragic incidents, like a fatal crash at a French roadblock, have raised alarms about the security of both drivers and the public.

Amidst these disruptions, the European Union’s decision to postpone new sustainability reporting standards until 2026 has sparked criticism. The delay in implementing the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which mandates companies to report emissions data, is seen as a setback in the fight against climate change. Critics argue that such delays hinder meaningful progress in decarbonizing one of the largest emitting sectors.

The CSRD aims to promote transparency in emissions reporting, including Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. However, with the proposed postponement, sectors like road transport, which significantly contribute to pollution, will have extended leeway before they need to comply with these reporting standards.

The road freight industry in the EU faces the dual pressures of adapting to immediate operational disruptions and preparing for long-term sustainability commitments.


  • Plan for Disruptions: With ongoing protests and regulatory delays, plan logistics operations to account for potential disruptions, especially in hotspot areas like France and Germany.
  • Engage in Sustainability Planning: Despite the delay in the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), start planning for eventual compliance by assessing and reducing emissions within logistics operations.
  • Prioritize Driver Safety and Compliance: In light of safety concerns, prioritize partnerships with road transport providers that demonstrate strong commitments to driver safety and regulatory compliance.


In response to the ongoing Red Sea crisis, the rail freight industry is experiencing a notable shift in transport preferences. Dimerco reports a significant 30% jump in rail volumes year-on-year, with inquiries for rail bookings surging by 40% in recent months.

This trend, particularly due to Chinese New Year, reflects a strategic pivot to rail amidst global shipping uncertainties. While less-than-container load (LCL) rail shipments have seen substantial volume increases, full-container loads (FCL) are yet to match this growth. Interestingly, rail freight costs, hovering around $6,000 to $7,000, are now comparable to elevated ocean freight rates.

The shift isn’t uniform across all markets due to geopolitical factors like the Ukraine conflict. For instance, sanctions affecting specific routes through Russia limit options for EU and US customers. Although alternatives like the Black Sea route exist, they’re less attractive due to longer transit times and higher costs. However, in Asia and developing regions, rail continues to be a viable option, with Xi’an, a major China-Europe rail hub, seeing a 15.3% increase in departures in 2023.

The rail sector anticipates further growth in the near future, with plans to increase train departures significantly in 2024. As the holiday period looms, rail spot freight rates are upward, although availability varies by route. For now, rail transport is a resilient and increasingly favored mode of transportation amidst global logistical challenges.


  • Shift to Rail Where Feasible: With rail volumes increasing and costs comparable to elevated ocean rates, consider shifting more freight to rail, especially for routes less affected by geopolitical issues.
  • Book in Advance to Secure Capacity: Given the surge in rail bookings and anticipated further growth, secure capacity by booking in advance, especially for peak periods.
  • Assess Route Viability Regularly: Continuously assess the viability of rail routes, especially considering geopolitical factors affecting routes through Russia and alternatives like the Black Sea route.



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.

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