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Market review; 14th March

Heading into the post Lunar New Year slack period sea freight spot rates retained most of their recent gains and while Drewry’s World Container Index dropped slightly in March it remains 80% higher than 2023 and 130% more than average pre-pandemic rates. 

Global air cargo demand was up 13% in the first two months of the year, compared with the equivalent period in 2023. Demand is continuing to surge from Middle East & South Asia origins, with tonnages recovering from the normal Lunar New Year (LNY) seasonal dip, including from the key Asia Pacific origin region.

While road freight capacity has improved significantly spot rates, though softer, stay at a historic high level, with lower diesel prices (rising now in the UK) failing to deliver a significant drop in freight rates. 


Ocean freight market volume has now seen year-over-year growth since October and while spot rates retained most of their recent gains, they have dipped ex-Asia, with the lines adding 500k TEU of new-build capacity, which has been comfortably soaked up by Red Sea diversions around Africa.

However, ocean freight is now in its traditional slow season and the expectation is that with rate increases far exceeding most estimates of the additional costs faced by carriers, rates would come down from recent highs, but the lines are removing capacity to protect rates.

Across the major East-West headhaul trades: Transpacific, Transatlantic and Asia to North Europe and the Mediterranean, 50 cancelled sailings have been announced between week 11 and week 15, out of a total of 650 scheduled sailings, representing an 8% cancellation rate.

– 22% of the global fleet trading between Asia and Europe
– Far East exports rose by 13.0%
– Panama Canal increase daily transits
– 8% of ex-Asia sailings cancelled


There is growth in the air freight market at a global level, with robust US retail spending and strong demand from Asia markets, including Bangladesh and Vietnam. 

This appears to be a response to the Red Sea crisis, with clothing and other consumer goods producers using airfreight to get goods to market in Europe. 

However, these markets do seem to be the exception, with demand in Europe subdued and almost all major economies in shallow recessions, characterised by a lack of growth.

– Air cargo demand up by 13% in Jan/Feb
– Spot rates from China to Europe rise and fall post LNY
– India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka spot rates rise sharply
– Spot rates ex-Europe down almost 30%


According to transport associations, prices for road transport will have to rise significantly in 2024, with estimates assuming a rise of up to 12% across Europe, driven by additional costs, including rising toll prices in several countries, including Germany.

Demand for transport would be expected to increase in March, with road freight demand expected to be holding steady across Europe by June, which may prompt intense negotiations between customers and service providers.

– Diesel prices rise in Feb and March
– Haulier inner prices rise substantially
– Capacity index falls for the first time in 19 months
– Rates predicted to increase later in year

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.

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.