Red Sea crisis; supply chain update 17th January 2024
Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to attack commercial shipping, with a rocket attack on a Greek-owned vessel and a US-owned bulk carriers in the last two days and with container shipping line’ schedules showing Cape of Good Hope routing for vessels into early February, it is clear that they do not expect to recommence Suez Canal transit anytime soon.
The shipping lines continue to announce surcharges for cargo on vessels affected by the diversion from Suez and while the SCFI spot rate index from Asia to N.Europe is up over 200%, its rate of growth has slowed.
Re-routing container ships around the Cape of Good has already lost two weeks sailing round-Africa and means that around 800K TEU will not now arrive in Asia in time for the Chinese New Year peak, which will create shortages of empty containers in key locations.
Air freight rates out of Asia are likely to surge in the coming weeks as European importers soak up any spare capacity, as they seek to avoid ocean equipment shortages and schedule disruptions brought on by the Red Sea shipping crisis.
UK port congestion
The feedback we are getting from the container ports, including Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway, is largely positive, without fears of delayed vessels arriving en-masse leading to congestion, though some bunching is expected towards the end of January.
The primary UK container ports can comfortably handle two or more Ultra Large vessels at the same time and in most cases the container stacks are relatively light with low dwell times, which means they have the space to handle any influx of containers.
UK Haulage is relatively quiet and while there will be increased pressure when vessels arrive, the level of business arriving is not expected to challenge, other than urgent cargo and completing moves within the restricted free-time periods.
For Asia/Europe services the 11 week sailing rotations are becoming 13/14/15 week rotations, which carriers are mitigating by introducing additional tonnage, to maintain weekly calls.
Any concern is more linked to the return of the Suez transit, as subject to timing the ports foresee the potential for berthing pinch points in Europe and/or the Far East as the vessels diverting back clash with those routed via Africa. However, any impact will be subject to timing, given the Chinese New Year period is also ahead.
The window for booking air freight ahead of Chinese New Year is closing over the next couple of weeks, which is why we would urge you to contact us without delay, so that we can book your aircraft space and services at the best possible rates for your time-critical cargo.
An additional 10 days ocean freight transit is manageable for most shippers, but we are already getting reports of container shortages and it is essential that you share your shipping forecasts, so that we can reserve the equipment you need, when you need it.
If you have any questions or concerns about the impact of the Suez situation on your Asia supply chain, or would like to discuss its wider implications, please do contact me.