Challenging conditions and dynamic demand trends characterize the air freight market. Nevertheless, with anticipations of a rate hike compounded by shipping disruptions and the early February Chinese New Year, the TAC Index reported a surprise 20.5% fall in the two weeks to January 1. Forwarders pointed out they’ve seen a rise in inquiries but no substantial change in air or sea air service bookings just yet.

The Red Sea crisis hasn’t substantially impacted the air freight market, though it has increased inquiries for rail freight. Nevertheless, air freight dynamics will change as the scenario evolves and the Chinese New Year approaches.

Forwarders report rising sea air demand as a solution from several Asian nations, indicating operational and price advantages in the current industry. The situation could increase demand for sea air solutions, particularly from the fashion industry, which often responds quickly to disruptions. The garment industry, particularly, is regarded as a sector likely to favor sea-air transportation because of the ongoing infrastructure problems and high airfreight rates.

With the Red Sea crisis still raging with attacks on ships and shipping lines rerouting around southern Africa, the market is ready to move to sea-air movements via Dubai / Jebel Ali and improved direct air freight bookings if the crisis isn’t solved.


  • Anticipate Rate Fluctuations: Be prepared for rate hikes and dynamic demand trends in the air freight market, especially with the approaching Chinese New Year.
  • Explore Sea-Air Options: Consider sea-air freight solutions, particularly for industries like fashion that require quick responses to disruptions. This might offer operational and cost advantages in the current market.
  • Stay Informed on Red Sea Crisis Impacts: Monitor how the Red Sea crisis affects air freight, especially its indirect impact on inquiries for rail freight.
  • Plan for Direct Air Freight Bookings: Be ready to shift to direct air freight bookings if the Red Sea crisis continues and affects sea-air movements via Dubai/Jebel Ali.


The new year has brought several challenges to European importers of Asian goods. They’re now waiting for their containers with great confusion and high freight costs.

The crisis in the Red Sea has cast doubts on US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian. This naval defense force ensured secure passage across and out of the Suez Canal. However, recent missile strikes by Yemeni Houthi rebels have caused concern among shipping businesses.

Now, shipping alliances have to make hard decisions about their routes. Many are contemplating rerouting their vessels across the Cape of Good Hope. Other people are considering stopping their journey until further risk assessments are completed. These are tricky decisions because various carriers might have different routing policies within an alliance. This confusion has brought about confusion over ships’ revised ETAs en route from Asia to Europe. Some shippers have observed rotation and arrival time differences among alliance members on the same ship. These uncertainties and delays are posing severe problems for importers. They have to keep their customers updated regarding delays in arriving items.

Adding to these logistical problems are skyrocketing freight expenses. Rates on the Asia-Europe route have recently jumped from about USD 900 to around USD 3,000 per 40ft container. This substantial rise is forcing companies to modify their pricing methods for next year – which could affect inflation.



  • Prepare for Delays and Confusion: With the crisis in the Red Sea affecting shipping routes, clients should anticipate potential delays and confusion regarding container ETAs from Asia to Europe.
  • Evaluate Alternative Routes: Consider the feasibility of alternative shipping routes, such as rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope, to mitigate risks associated with the Red Sea crisis.
  • Budget for Increased Costs: Prepare for higher freight expenses, as rates have surged significantly. This might necessitate revising pricing strategies and budgeting for the year.
  • Monitor Situation Closely: Stay updated on developments regarding Operation Prosperity Guardian and the Red Sea crisis to make informed decisions and adjust strategies quickly.


Ukraine seeks to integrate more into the European market in 2024 by signing numerous important deals with the European Union. These objectives are extending the permit-free trucking and duty-free trade agreements, concluding a conformity assessment agreement, and admitting industrial products (ACAA) as soon as possible.

Ukraine’s integration efforts are reflected in its full integration with the European energy grid and EU regulations for the free-of-charge roaming market. A significant step was implementing a permit-free system for Ukrainian truckers in July 2022, which will run out in July 2024. This system has continued to be a source of dispute since November, with truckers from Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland protesting. These truckers claim that removing permits for Ukrainian drivers has lowered trucking service rates and adversely impacted transport markets in neighboring countries.

There also have been disruptions brought on by the duty-free trade regime with the EU, which was available after 2022 but ends in June 2024. Regional farmers have protested since inexpensive Ukrainian farming products flooded Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria markets. Under pressure from these nations, the European Commission issued interim import bans that national bans had replaced by Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Ukraine has protested these moves with the World Trade Organization, which has set up negotiations with the European Commission.


  • Anticipate Market Integration: Prepare for Ukraine’s deeper integration into the European market, which could affect permit-free trucking and duty-free trade agreements.
  • Evaluate Impact on Service Rates: Be aware of how changes in trucking permits and duty-free regimes impact service rates and transport markets in Europe.
  • Stay Informed on Policy Changes: Keep up-to-date with policy changes and trade negotiations, as these will influence the road transport sector, especially in Eastern Europe.
  • Consider Diverse Transport Options: Diversify transport strategies to accommodate changes in the European road freight market, especially in response to Ukraine’s integration efforts.


With legislation and brand-new industry entrants likely to drive significant changes in 2024, European rail freight is set to undergo significant changes. This comes amid political leaders ‘moves to favor rail freight over road transportation, which presents challenges and opportunities for the sector.

Significant transformations are happening in France, in which Fret SNCF, the cargo arm of French Railways (SNCF), will be reorganized following an EU probe into state aid. The firm, which made losses of 5.3 billion (USD 5.8 billion) between 2007 and 2019, will now be privatized, possibly by two entities. This also involves transferring a component of traffic and resources to competitors, which represents a fundamental change in the French rail freight landscape.

This particular action, caused by a 170 million (USD 187 million) capital injection labeled unfair aid, is intended to promote competition and reduce state subsidies. Although Fret SNCF reported operating profits recently, these are mainly the result of cost-cutting measures and one-off sales of subsidiaries. The French government proposes to inject’ 320 million (USD 351 million) per year in rail freight subsidies until at least 2030 as part of a wider program to double rail’s freight share.

The situation in France has wider implications throughout Europe, and industry experts theorize on what might happen in Germany’s DB Cargo to trigger similar moves. This state-owned entity has been running at a loss like Fret SNCF but remains operating because of investments from its parent company, Deutsche Bahn, and the German government. DB Cargo faces challenges in Europe with layoffs and cost cuts in its non-German affiliates.

On the flip side, private companies are gaining ground in the rail freight industry, with Shipping giant Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) investing heavily. MSC’s rail expansion complements its core shipping business, which now manages many more aspects of the logistics chain from factory to port. This development is illustrated by MSC’s current activities, which include the acquisition of Portugal’s state-owned railway freight business and the development of new rail freight businesses in Belgium and Italy.

In the coming year, there will also be a joint venture between Medway and Spanish state-owned Renfe Mercancas, resulting in additional growth and integration in the rail freight industry. Because rail accounts for just a portion of Spain’s freight transportation, this alliance can help expand the industry via MSC’s increasing share of rail freight operations.

These events highlight a new era for European rail freight: increased competition, regulation changes, and the effect of private investment.


  • Adapt to Industry Changes: With significant transformations in European rail freight, particularly in France and Germany, clients should stay informed about the evolving landscape and potential impacts on their operations.
  • Consider Private Rail Operators: Explore opportunities with private rail companies like MSC, which are expanding and integrating more aspects of the logistics chain.
  • Leverage New Rail Ventures: Pay attention to new ventures like the joint venture between Medway and Renfe Mercancas, which could offer expanded rail freight services in Europe.
  • Monitor Regulation Changes: Stay aware of regulation changes and government subsidies, as these will impact the rail freight market dynamics and potentially offer new opportunities.



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.

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