As attacks on commercial vessels at the Red Sea persist despite US and UK strikes in Yemen, a new analysis by Freightos noted that the widespread container traffic diversions away from the Suez Canal also continue.
Judah Levine, head of research at Freightos, said ocean carriers are omitting some port calls in the Red Sea and the Middle East, as well as at some Mediterranean ports as they adapt.
In the meantime, there are reports of inventory shortages for some European importers as shipments are delayed or taking longer to arrive, he added.
"And though there are still reports of tight space and equipment at Asian export hubs, congestion remains minimal, and there are signs space and equipment availability may already be improving," Levine further said.
With these operational challenges and the Lunar New Year rapidly approaching, the report said ocean rates from Asia to N. America increased 38% to the West Coast last week, past US$4K/FEU and 21% to the East Coast to the US$6k/FEU level, while Asia to N. Europe and Mediterranean rates levelled off at US$5,500/FEU and US$6,500/FEU respectively.
Levine said carriers are still working to add vessels and adjust ongoing schedules, which should accommodate the longer voyages and help improve reliability in the coming weeks, and demand-side pressure is expected to ease in the period after LNY too.
Rate increases may be reaching peak
"So as operations improve and with pre-LNY urgency likely a significant contributor to rate increases so far in January, freight rates – despite GRIs and surcharges announced for February — may be reaching their ceiling," Levine said.
He noted that ocean delays have pushed some shippers to alternatives like rail or land-bridge options.
And though there were expectations of a significant move to air and sea-air logistics, Levine noted that so far, the shift seems "moderate and more pronounced for sea-air than for air cargo."
"Like in ocean freight, demand for alternatives should also ease after LNY," the Freightos head of research added.
Freightos Air Index data show that China - N. America air cargo rates climbed 11% last week to US$5.33/kg but are below levels at the end of December, while China - N. Europe prices have declined for the past two weeks.
Middle East – to N. Europe prices, meanwhile, climbed 24% in the last two weeks to US$1.80/kg, possibly reflecting some ocean-to-sea-air shift.