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What is currently shaping the air freight market? What about sea freight? What about the rail connection with China? Read more.


The major peak at the end of 2020 has passed. Over New Year’s, load factors stabilized on many routes. This week, demand is picking up again. There is still capacity available on our "SAB" routes. But the market remains volatile.

Due to Chinese New Year, the usual bottlenecks to and from Asia are expected. At present, the situation is manageable. It can be assumed that effects will be felt in the market in the short term.


For exports to Asia, the market situation remains critical at the beginning of the year. This means: full ships, high demand before Chinese New Year. Rates remain high in February. Throughout Europe, containers have long been in short supply. Shipowners impose surcharges due to the imbalance. Exports remain volatile over Chinese New Year. Recovery not expected until end of March at the earliest.

Hapag Lloyd imposes a booking freeze for exports to Calcutta. Restriction applies to cargo via Singapore, Colombo and Krishnapatnam.

British ports are congested. Hubs such as Port Kelang (Malaysia) are also reporting delays. There are sporadic missed ship calls for these congested ports. For South China, some feeder operators announce temporary suspension of their services until the end of February. The reason: stricter quarantine regulations in Chinese ports.

Towards North and South America, the new year is also starting with full ships. Some carriers are no longer accepting bookings for January. Rates are rising again, or PSS (Peak Season Surcharge) and EIS (Emergency Imbalance Surcharge) are being incurred.

To South America, the backlog from the holidays is easing slowly. Full ships everywhere. But especially on this route, the situation is expected to normalize soon. Rates are stable and most of them have already been extended until the end of March 2021.

The general rule is to place bookings as early as possible to secure capacity and equipment.


Rail freight traffic between Europe and China achieved remarkable growth in 2020: more trains, more volumes, new destinations on Eurasian routes. Many customers switched from air or sea to rail. This brought new records. At the same time, new challenges arose with backlogs and long waiting times at border crossings. Delays in imports must still be expected. By contrast, exports to the Far East are stable.

China Railway is intervening in the market and reducing departures from January 18, 2021, thus further tightening the backlog before Chinese New Year. It is still unclear for how long the state railroad company will maintain the reduction.



New cases of COVID-19 have recently been registered in China. The outbreak is so far locally limited to a few provinces. In particular, Liaoning and Hebei, two main production regions in northern China, are affected. The central government in Beijing has introduced strict requirements for all trucks entering the Beijing metropolitan area from Hebei or medium/high risk zones. According to the decree, drivers must present a negative test result to still be allowed to pass barriers. Several highways in the direction of Beijing have been completely closed.

These factors must be taken into account. For Chinese New Year (February 11-26th, 2021), large travel wave is expected again throughout the country.


The U.S. has tightened conditions for aircraft approvals. In doing so, the government ensures the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a stronger position in the approval of new types. The new decision stems from a review of two Boeing 737 Max crashes from 2018 and 2019.
On the sea route between the U.S. and Asia, Chinese New Year is causing bottlenecks in supply chains, as it does every year. Volumes from the Far East slump significantly as production in China shuts down during the holidays. Shipowners temporarily cancel sailings, importers bring forward shipments to before the holidays. In the meantime and afterwards, there is a lack of capacity for exports to North America. Effects are to be expected (source: freightwaves.com).

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