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Freight market report – January 2023

Our first freight market report of 2023 provides multi-modal situation updates and insights, together with China and carrier updates, that will provide you with critical insights for the weeks ahead.

Freight rates are dropping from their pandemic highs, following two years of tight capacity and high rates.

Ocean container rates were particularly high during 2022, but towards the latter half of the year, falling demand and significant oversupply of capacity saw rates fall quickly, prompting shipping lines to blank sailings aggressively.

Airfreight volumes dipped for a ninth consecutive month in December, dashing hopes of a late peak season boost, while road freight’s cost base remains high, so spot rates remain relatively stable, as contract rates ebb from their pandemic highs.


Weak demand from shippers and tight vessel space availability have counter-balanced each other to keep freight rates relatively stable, as we enter the New Year.

Anticipating a significant post-CNY demand slump Ocean carriers plan to blank half their sailings to keep rates stable.

Port of Rotterdam operations have been massively impacted by industrial action, but the danger of further strikes at UK’s Felixstowe port has been avoided after a pay deal was reached with unions.

  • Freight rates remain stable
  • Carriers have made significant capacity cuts
  • Global schedule reliability up 4.7% in November
  • Rising coronavirus numbers disrupts Chinese supply chains


Headwinds in the air cargo market continue to persist, including a possible global recession, high fuel prices, rising inflation, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing U.S.- China trade war. These factors serve to weaken both purchasing power as well as freight demand

The relaxation of China’s zero- COVID strategy will opening up manufacturing and free supply chains, but rising infection levels are causing concern.

A shortage of ground handlers and air crew will be another problem faced in 2023, possibly causing delays. The air cargo market outlook remains subdued as demand continues to remain soft.

  • Airfreight rates remained stable throughout Christmas and into the new year
  • We could see a small rate increases imposed pre CNY
  • Carriers likely to shift away from long- term contracts to shorter-term deals
  • Some carriers may withdraw entirely from some trade lanes


UK and European road freight rates continue to increase into 2023, as rising costs are passed onto customers

Driver shortages remain an acute problem in the UK and European markets, with hauliers finding themselves stretched to the max.

Road freight rates are significantly determined by driver wages and fuel costs, with the latter more uncertain and difficult to forecast. The cost of fuel has begun to fall from record high levels, but the cost of fuel does not build a clear advantage for carriers from a particular country.

  • High inflation weakening demand for road freight
  • Shortages of raw materials and intermediate products, impact demand
  • Driver shortages continue to affect available capacity
  • Fuel, inflation and driver shortages put upward pressure on costs

To discuss any of the issues highlighted here, or to discover the value that PSP Worldwide would bring to your supply chain please EMAIL our managing director, Colin Redman.

We continuously monitor the evolving logistics environment, to share breaking news and developments, so that you can make the informed decisions that will protect your supply chain.