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Freight Market Update - February 1, 2023

Beeontrade

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August 2023

8 min read

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Freight Market Update - February 1, 2023

From the Editor’s Desk

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Key takeaways for the US

  • Expected increase in blank sailings due to Lunar New Year.
  • China resumes its work week after the holiday break.
  • Major drop in demand due to post-Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year.
  • Space and congestion issues in various ports. 

Read on for more in-depth updates.

Ocean Freight Market Update

Asia to North America

U.S / CA

Impact of Lunar New Year on Ocean Freight Rates: Minor changes observed in TPEB demand

  • Rates remain relatively flat after the Lunar New Year (LNY) week.
  • Capacity is also expected to increase over the next few weeks with an increase in blank sailings.
  • Vessel dwell counts have turned stable with about three waiting vessels. The berthing delays have also been reduced to nine days.
  • The maximum wait time is ten days for rail dwell.
  • China is to resume its work week in the upcoming few days after the long break for LNY.
  • Until this point, the number of blank sailings was quite low in the trade despite the low demand.
  • With the downward trend in rates, it might increase in the upcoming weeks. It is best to book slots in advance keeping these restrictions in mind.

Conclusions

Rates: The rates will remain soft on most origin-destination combinations.

Space: Space open, no issues with equipment. No usual exceptions in a few pockets as witnessed in the past few weeks.

Recommendation: Book at least two weeks prior to the date your vessel gets ready to depart. Keep the upcoming blank sailings in mind owing to this time of the year. Be flexible and plan your shipments keeping delays and congestion in mind.

Turkey to North America 

  • Capacity is expected to increase in the upcoming weeks as MSC and Maersk are adding vessels.
  • These vessels are being added to the Mediterranean loops. Blank sailings are also at a minimum despite the reduced demand.
  • The MED services are quite low in capacity utilization levels with almost no space constraints.
  • Despite some inconsistencies in the schedules from various parts of the area, there are smooth sailings in others.
  • Options are limited owing to the artificially high levels of utilization.
  • With congestion easing, more space is coming online on the US East Coast and US West Coast.
  • Equipment is also getting better with low empty stacks at inland depots getting better in some areas.

 Conclusions

Rates: Rates are dropping constantly with a consistent downward trend. The demand may dip even further into negative territory in the upcoming months. It is not picking up at the same pace witnessed in 2022.

Space for capacity: No capacity issues or issues with space due to the congestion easing up.

Space for equipment: No issues with equipment as it is getting progressively better over time. The low empty stacks at inland depots are getting better in specific areas. It is best to prioritize pickup from the Port of Loading and plan your cargo-ready dates two weeks in advance. Request premium service for higher reliability and no-roll.

North America to Turkey 

  • A lack of Chinese imports is resulting in fewer containers being repositioned.
  • The number of blank sailings has decreased (according to our previous market update, none were planned for February as it was).
  • This trend may continue until early February during which time the Chinese workers will be returning back to work in full swing.

Conclusions

Rates: Stable rates over the last week.

Space for capacity: Some intermodal terminals are heavily congested. However, there is no major capacity or space issue.

Space for equipment: Equipment issues have started owing to low levels of import.

 Terminal Updates 

  • The New York terminal has no vessel berthing delays and the situation across all terminals is reportedly fluid.
  • Most vessels are expected to berth on arrival at the Norfolk terminal. If not immediately, the maximum time is within half a day.
  • Very occasionally, the waiting vessels may experience a one to one and a half days delay for berthing.
  • At Houston, the Barbour’s Cut terminal is expected to experience berth congestion in the upcoming days.
  • Moreover, it is also expected to have labor shortages due to Bayport vessels taking up a majority of the gangs.
  • A sustained import dwell fee will come into effect at Houston Port from February 1 onwards to maintain its fluidity at Bayport and Barbour’s Cut terminals.
  • A fee of $45 will be charged per unit per day starting on the eighth day after the free time expires.

 US Domestic Trucking Market Trends

  • The national Outbound Tender Rejection Index (OTRI) US Domestic Trucking Trends: The Outbound Tender Rejection Index (OTRI) saw a decline, staying below 6% during the Christmas season.
  • This is the first time this has been recorded in the last five years.
  • Overstuffed inventories are resulting in rapid demand erosion.
  • Eroding consumption is coming out of an overstimulated goods economy. Due to this, the transportation markets are weakening.
  • These conditions may persist throughout the first quarter of 2023. Please note that this is a minimum forecast.
  • The spot market will be filled with discounted freight during the slowest time of the year.
  • This is provided there is little to no disruption in the carrier networks. 

Final Thoughts

With the given updates, In conclusion, based on current ocean and air freight rates and US market trends, the sector seems to be performing efficiently.

Some areas have been badly affected due to the Lunar New Year, the Chinese New Year, and inclement weather. Due to these special occasions, there is a dip in demand as well as longer dwell and waiting times for cargo. However, with Chinese workers entering back to work after their break, things are getting back in shape.

There are mostly blank sailings planned for some ports while others are not planning any in February. It is best to make informed decisions and choose ports that are open and without space or equipment issues. It will help you import or export without the hassle and through sufficient manpower.

Keep the blank sailings in mind and various other restrictions. Unexpected congestion and delays also need to be considered. We can expect a steady and consistent increase in the market owing to these trends which are bound to change in the upcoming days.

With that being said, we are grateful that you perused our newsletter till the end. Be sure to subscribe to us and stay notified about the latest weekly market updates.

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