AIR FREIGHT

In a year marked by continued supply chain disruptions and shifting trade dynamics, the air freight sector has charted a remarkable course of resilience and growth as it sails into 2024. Notably, the sector has not only sustained its momentum beyond the Chinese New Year (CNY) but has also seen a notable uplift in demand and spot rates. Following January’s robust performance, February showcased a consecutive month of double-digit growth in demand, with an 11% year-over-year increase, defying the traditional post-CNY slowdown. This surge has increased the average global cargo spot rate by 2% from January, reaching $2.29 per kg.

This unexpected uptick is largely attributed to the logistical turmoil unleashed by the Red Sea crisis, which has significantly dented the reliability of ocean shipping schedules, plummeting to a mere 39.4% in January—the lowest since October 2022. The ripple effects of these disruptions have nudged shippers towards more reliable sea-air or pure airfreight alternatives, significantly boosting volumes at key Asia-Europe sea-air hubs. Dubai, Colombo, and Bangkok have reported staggering year-on-year increases in air cargo tonnages to Europe, with growth rates of 71%, 61%, and 58%, respectively, in the first seven weeks of 2024.

Despite declining revenues in 2023—as airlines grappled with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic’s dampening effect on air cargo demand—stakeholders remain buoyantly optimistic about the sector’s trajectory in 2024. Lufthansa and Etihad, for instance, witnessed a stark revenue downturn last year but are now eyeing a promising uptick, driven by e-commerce’s exponential growth and the ongoing worries in ocean freight. Lufthansa Cargo’s revenue dipped to €2.98bn ($3.3bn) in 2023, marking a 36% decrease from 2022, while Etihad’s cargo revenues fell by 38% year-on-year to $914m. However, as evidenced by nearly parallel tonnage figures year-on-year, the underlying demand metrics point towards a market recalibration rather than a downturn in demand per se.

As we advance through 2024, the air freight industry stands on the cusp of a strategic inflection point. With the Red Sea crisis continuing to inject volatility into global trade routes, the allure of airfreight as a viable alternative gains prominence. Moreover, the burgeoning e-commerce sector, particularly from China, necessitates expansive freight capacities to fuel its growth, positioning air cargo as a pivotal player in the global logistics arena. The sector’s resilience is further underscored by its adaptability to geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainties, with stakeholders meticulously calibrating their strategies to navigate the evolving landscape.

In sum, the air freight sector’s journey through 2024 is emblematic of its inherent agility and critical role in sustaining global supply chains amidst turbulence. With an eye on the horizon for potential shifts in trade winds, the sector remains vigilant, leveraging its strategic capabilities to maintain altitude in a dynamically changing global marketplace.

Suggestions:

  • Capitalize on Air Freight’s Reliability: Shift more volume to air freight where time sensitivity or supply chain disruptions justify the higher cost, especially in light of ongoing sea freight volatility.
  • Partner with Reliable Airlines: Establish relationships with airlines known for their reliability and capacity availability, ensuring priority access in peak times.
  • Monitor Market Trends: Stay informed about the air cargo market dynamics to quickly adapt to rate changes and capacity issues, particularly during global events affecting traditional freight modes.

ROAD FREIGHT

The EU and Moldova have agreed to extend their road transport agreement until December 31, 2025, reinforcing economic ties and easing transit between the two regions. Originally signed on June 29, 2022, this agreement has notably boosted Moldova’s exports to the EU, benefiting both economies amidst challenging global conditions. The extension aims to maintain and further develop Moldova’s integration with the EU market, especially after losing critical transport routes through Ukraine due to the conflict with Russia. Liberalizing road freight and granting transport rights supports the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes, enhancing connectivity and facilitating Ukrainian trade through Moldova.

Significant growth has been observed in road exports from Moldova to the EU, with a 27% increase in volume in Q3 2022 and a 35% increase in Q3 2023 compared to 2021. The EU has also seen a positive impact, with a 30% rise in road exports to Moldova by value from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022, stabilizing in the same period in 2023. The extension of this agreement, confirmed at the latest Joint Committee meeting, promises continued economic collaboration without altering the original terms, aiming to strengthen the logistical and economic bond between the EU and Moldova.

Suggestions:

  • Maximize Regional Agreements: Utilize extended road transport agreements, such as between the EU and Moldova, to enhance connectivity and reduce transit times for European operations.
  • Focus on Border Efficiency: Optimize logistics planning around border crossings and customs clearance to benefit from smoother road freight operations, leveraging agreements that facilitate easier trade.
  • Strategic Route Planning: Use advanced route planning tools to avoid congested routes and capitalize on liberalized road freight markets, improving delivery efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

SEA FREIGHT

In recent developments within the sea freight industry, transpacific container spot rates have slightly declined this week, yet they remain significantly higher than last year’s figures. This trend creates an optimistic outlook for ocean carriers, who anticipate favorable annual contract rate increases, especially in light of discussions at the upcoming TPM24 conference in Long Beach, California.

According to Xeneta’s XSI, the Asia-US West Coast rate has fallen by 3% to $4,619 per 40ft, a stark contrast to the $1,316 rate during the same period in 2023 and a jump from December’s $1,593 rate before the Red Sea crisis. Meanwhile, the US East Coast witnessed a 3% rate decrease to $5,820 per 40ft, marking a 110% year-on-year increase.

However, the Asia-Europe trade lane is experiencing a quicker rate decline, compelling carriers to adjust their FAK rates for April. Hapag-Lloyd and MSC have published new FAK rates to counterbalance the rapid erosion of revenue. Despite these adjustments, Drewry’s WCI indicates that current spot rates for North Europe and the Mediterranean are yet to meet Hapag-Lloyd’s revised FAK rates, highlighting a potential further decline by May due to subdued demand.

The backdrop of these fluctuations is the ongoing Red Sea crisis, which has caused disruptions and rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope. These events have notably impacted European exporters to the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, leading to a pivot towards Far East suppliers. Maritime consultancy MSI notes a 34.5% expansion in the Far East-Middle East/India trade in January, driven by India’s burgeoning demand for containerized imports.

The shift in sourcing strategies is reflected in the significant growth from $49.84 billion in 2021 to a projected nearly $90 billion by 2030 in the 4PL logistics market, with an anticipated 50% increase in companies utilizing 4PL services by 2030. This growth underscores the increasing reliance on 4PL services to navigate the complexities of global supply chains, particularly in light of disruptions like the Red Sea crisis.

This dynamic environment underscores the crucial role of strategic planning and the adoption of 4PL services for businesses looking to navigate the complexities of international trade. The evolving logistics landscape, marked by rate fluctuations and the reshaping of trade patterns due to geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions, highlights the need for agility and strategic foresight in the industry.

 

Suggestions:

  • Flexibility in Contracting: Negotiate contracts with built-in flexibility such as adjustable rates and terms to adapt to fluctuating market conditions, especially considering the high variability in rates.
  • Explore Alternative Ports and Carriers: Diversify import/export routes and use multiple carriers to avoid dependency on a single route or provider, reducing vulnerability to disruptions like the Red Sea crisis.
  • Leverage 4PL Expertise: Use Fourth Party Logistics providers to handle complex routing and increased compliance needs, taking advantage of their expertise to optimize ocean freight operations.

RAIL FREIGHT

In a notable shift for German rail freight, Maersk has introduced a €9 ($9.73) per TEU rail infrastructure surcharge from April 1, in response to reduced state subsidies for rail paths within Germany. This surcharge is a direct consequence of the cut in Trassenförderung, a vital government subsidy, which has been scaled back by €120m from its previous €350m. This development introduces new cost pressures for shippers and adds to the uncertainty surrounding the future of European rail freight, especially as it’s considered crucial for achieving the EU’s net-zero targets.

Amid these changes, the potential breakup of DB Schenker’s freight division looms, sparked by concerns over government support leading to market distortion. This situation echoes France’s approach with Fret SNCF, which privatized its freight division to avoid European Commission sanctions for unfair state aid.

Despite the challenges, private rail operators in Germany, holding around 59% market share by 2022, demonstrate the sector’s resilience and competitive edge. Their success without state financing underscores a robust market that can sustain fair competition and innovation. As Germany adjusts to these regulatory and operational shifts, the rail freight sector’s role in a sustainable and efficient European logistics network remains more crucial than ever.

Suggestions:

  • Evaluate Cost Implications: Account for new surcharges and cost adjustments in rail freight, especially in Europe, by updating budget allocations and contract terms.
  • Support Sustainable Freight Options: Favor rail freight as part of a sustainability strategy, aligning with broader corporate goals for reducing carbon footprint.
  • Prepare for Regulatory Changes: Stay updated on government policies and subsidies affecting rail infrastructure and pricing, particularly in regions like Germany where policy shifts can impact costs.

 

ABOUT US

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.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

 

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