Market Update | April 2021

April 29, 2021

Get the latest on Operations and Carrier updates. Got questions, comments, or need assistance? Our team is ready, don't hesitate to contact us.

At Crane Worldwide Logistics, we are equipped to navigate the changes to best support our clients. We will continue to monitor the situations globally to keep you informed.

To see our previous updates, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center. For the latest on Brexit, follow this link.

Check the latest information about the Suez Canal here.

Many countries have entered lockdown; however, all our facilities and warehouses are still operational. We have warehouse space available, ground transportation options globally, book air charters, and fill space on ocean carriers.

Ocean Update


  • Space and equipment availability is still a concern.  3 weeks advanced booking request is recommended.
  • China’s Ports Show 35.5% Increase in February Cargo Volumes.
  • Thailand and Korea are still dealing with equipment shortages.
  • Demand to book premium service has been increased
  • We are seeing high demand to USEC and US Gulf ports
  • Carriers continue to decline booking to inland locations to shorten the number of days for empty container returns.
  • Asia to Europe rates rise due to Suez Canal complication.
  • With port congestion and delays in Asia and European ports, container shortage in Asia is expected to become worse over the next few weeks before easing in early June.

North America

  • GRI and congestion surcharge are expected to go into effect from the U.S. and Canada to all destinations.
  • March was the second-busiest month in the TPEB trade ever.
  • The top 13 US container ports last month registered double-digit year-over-year growth and in some cases triple-digit increases
  • Some southern California freight diverted to other gateways such as Oakland, the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) of Seattle and Tacoma, New York-New Jersey, and Savannah.
  • Imports from Asia through Los Angeles-Long Beach in March totaled 795,012 TEU, up 15.9 percent from February and 92.7 percent from March 2020.
  • March marked the ninth consecutive month that Los Angeles-Long Beach handled about 800,000 TEU of Asian imports.
  • Asian imports in New York-New Jersey, increased 18.8 percent from February and 114.1 percent year over year.
  • Imports from Asia in March also set records in Savannah (up 103.1 percent year over year), the NWSA (66.1 percent), and Oakland (up 73.5 percent), and showed strong growth in Houston (up 143.5 percent), Charleston (up 130.1 percent), and Norfolk (up 65.5 percent).
  • Savannah and Oakland have both suffered from vessel bunching and minor issues involving terminal congestion over the past two months.

us import growth from asia accelerates chart

US Gulf Port

  • THE Alliance to start all water service is expected to start in Q2-2021
  • High demand service
  • Imports of Asian-made goods through the US Gulf Coast rose 13% year over year to 895,697 TEU in 2020
  • Overall Asian imports in 2020 were 5.4%, compared with 5.0% in 2019.
  • Houston handles about  2/3 of the Asian imports coming into the country through the US Gulf Coast.


  • Transatlantic westbound rates are rising.  A GRI was implemented on April 15th and another one is expected on May 1st
  • We recommend advanced booking notice of 5 weeks
  • Limited equipment availability across Europe as port congestion and lower vessel capacity delay empty container repositioning, particularly in inland depots. Customers are advised to allow flexibility in routing and empty pick up from the port.
  • More void sailings and change of port rotation or port omissions may be announced at short notice in the midterm as carriers try to recover weekly scheduled integrity.
  • UK ports are congested. Felixstowe and London Gateway are waiting 3-5 days in anchorage.
  • Rotterdam is our preferred alternative transshipment port


  • High demand to NORTAM, Europe, and Asia
  • Space
    • To USEC and Canada: Weight and volume restriction in place
    • To USWC: Overbooked, offer service via SIN and CMB, adds 2-3 weeks for transit time
    • Challenges in ICD locations (Especially north)
  • Rates
    • GRI: Every 15 days due to high demand
    • Rates will continue to increase until the end of May
    • Carriers ask for booking on priority service. They also offer premium service to secure faster turnaround of equipment
    • Labour shortage and closure are expected to happen in the upcoming weeks due to the rise of COVID cases.

Record US imports from Asia accelerate even further in March

U.S. imports from Asia increased 22% from February to 1.66 million TEU, up a staggering 90.5% from the same month a year ago. March was the second-busiest month in the trade ever, according to PIERS.

The top 13 U.S. container ports last month registered double-digit year-over-year growth. In some cases, triple-digit increases, which explains why some of the busiest gateways have experienced congested marine terminals and vessels bunching in their harbors.

To relieve some of the pressure on the Southern California gateway, retailers and carriers diverted some of their volumes to other gateways such as Oakland, the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) of Seattle and Tacoma, New York-New Jersey, and Savannah. All of the major ports experienced some degree of operational issues.

In March, imports from Asia through Los Angeles-Long Beach totaled 795,012 TEU, up 15.9 percent from February and 92.7 percent from March 2020. March marked the ninth consecutive month that Los Angeles-Long Beach handled about 800,000 TEU of Asian imports. By comparison, the gateway never managed 800,000 TEU of Asian imports in a single month in 2019. 

Asian imports in New York-New Jersey, the second-largest U.S. gateway, increased 18.8 percent from February and 114.1 percent year over year. The 206,247 TEU was the largest volume of imports from Asia ever handled in New York-New Jersey, causing some vessel bunching and terminal congestion.

Imports from Asia in March also set records in Savannah (up 103.1 percent year over year), the NWSA (66.1 percent), and Oakland (up 73.5 percent), and showed strong growth in Houston (up 143.5 percent), Charleston (up 130.1 percent), and Norfolk (up 65.5 percent). 

Savannah and Oakland have suffered from vessel bunching and minor issues involving terminal congestion over the past two months. Source: JOC

Port of Savannah volume increase 

Port of Savannah just reported an all-time high: 498,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container throughput in March, up 48% year on year. Last month’s volume was also a big rise from the preceding month, 27% higher than February’s 390,804 TEUs. Source: Freightwaves

  • Almost two weeks since the Ever Given was refloated, box traffic through the Suez Canal has more or less returned to normal, but the knock-on effects will last well into May, Maersk has warned. The container shipping giant has warned that customers should not expect a quick return to normal services after the Suez Canal blockage, which it predicts will keep disrupting global supply chains for some time.
  • The Suez Canal was blocked for six days at the end of last month after a container ship, the Ever Given, ran aground and held up more than 400 ships at one of the world’s most important trade arteries. It took about a week for the queue of ships to pass through the canal, and even longer to clear a continuing tailback that caught up with those vessels while they waited to pass.
  • The warning from Maersk follows similarly cautious messaging from other ship operators about potential disruption and acknowledgment by European manufacturers that supply chains would likely be hit as a result.
  • The unprecedented surge of imports at major US container ports that began last summer is expected to continue at least through the end of this summer as retailers work to meet increased consumer demand, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released yesterday by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
  • “We’ve never seen imports at this high a level for such an extended period of time,” said NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Records have been broken multiple times and near-record numbers are happening almost every month. Between federal stimulus checks (cheques) and money saved by staying home for the better part of a year, consumers have money in their pockets and they’re spending it with retailers as fast as retailers can stock their shelves.” Imports hit their lowest point in four years last March – 1.37 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) – as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold. But cargo rebounded and hit a then-record 2.1 million TEU in August as the economy reopened, eventually peaking at 2.21 million TEU in October, the two organizations noted. “Under the current forecast, volume is expected to remain at or above the 2 million TEU mark for 11 out of 13 months by this August,” the noted. “Before 2020, monthly imports had reached 2 million TEU only once, in October 2018.”
  • March was projected at 2.07 million TEU, up 50.7 percent year-over-year, but Hackett cautioned that last year’s swings caused by the pandemic have “played havoc” with percentage comparisons. During March 2020, many Asian factories that should have reopened after February’s Lunar New Year holiday were still closed, and US businesses were starting to close to avoid spreading the virus.
  • April is forecast at 1.99 million TEU, up 23.4 percent year-over-year; May at 2 million TEU, up 30.6 percent; June at 2.01 million TEU, up 24.9 percent; July at 2.04 million TEU, up 6.5 percent, and August at 2.08 million TEU, down 1.2 percent. The August number would be the first year-over-year decline since last July, Hackett highlighted.
  • Container throughput at China’s ports have increased 13% in February 2021 compared to the same month last year. According to data from the Ministry of Transport (see Table 1), China’s eight major ports recorded growth in cargo volumes and container throughput, except Dalian. Cargo volume has reached 1003.5 million tons, a 24.4% year-on-year increase while container throughput at China’s ports reached 18.6 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), up 35.5% from a year ago.
  • Ocean carriers have exhibited confidence that demand will remain robust in the longer term with most major carriers willing to sign ten-year charter deals maritime industry analyst Alphaliner presented in their recent newsletter. Idle tonnage represents just 1% of the total fleet while charter rates are hitting the highest level in 13 years. Capacity from China to the US may have eased slightly in recent weeks, but the disruptions to global supply chains look set to continue for several more months, freight sources indicate. Due to the unstable schedule to LAX/LGB (blank sailing and delay), more clients shift their routing from USWC to USEC. So, most carriers claim that USEC Sailing are fully booked till mid-May. Other than USEC, Gulf service is also fully booked.
  • Ocean freight spot rates on transpacific and Asia-Europe trade lanes soared on sustained demand and a shrinking pool of available, empty containers last year but the weeks to come are set to bring a stability in prices while remaining at relatively high levels, according to expert and industry sources.
  • Long-term Asia-Europe ocean freight contract rates have seen a record rise this month, according to new figures from Xeneta. Import prices to Europe on the digital rates specialist’s European XSI index increased by 19.3% in January compared with December 2020 to 132.67 points, with Xeneta noting that “this represents the largest monthly increase since the inception of the index, reflecting the unprecedented situation facing key trade lanes. As a result of this month-on-month rise, the benchmark is up 12.5% compared to the same period of 2020."
  • Severe shortage of VLCS disrupts liner schedules Liner operators are finding it increasingly hard to change or enhance services due to a lack of Very Large Container Ships (VLCS). The huge cargo demand in China (requiring extra sailings) and port congestion have rendered smooth cascadings of vessels impossible. The few blank sailings that have recently been announced are mostly the result of the non-availability of ships due to delays and the fact the charter market remains sold out.
  • Felixstowe & London Gateway port are having vessels anchor off port for 3-5 days pending a berthing slot. Current suggestion is use any southern port with best rates (FXT/SOU/LGP) but advise customers to build in an additional 7 days to TT to accommodate late berthing slots, longer discharge times and congestion at the port delaying vehicles in to collect.

Ocean Port Status 

  • Seattle/Tacoma: Some exports are being left behind due to vessel schedule catch-up.
  • Oakland: Vessel wait time is 3 days. Nearly 20 vessels waiting to discharge, including ten container ships.
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach:
    • The vessel wait time is 3+ days. 23 container ships waiting to discharge with 17 container ships being processed at berth.
    • IPI On Dock Rail delayed 7+ days.
    • Major Chassis shortages, delaying MLB/Doors, average LALB MLB dwell is 3+ days.
    • Due to the limited availability of workers, delays for vessels, rail, and trucking are expected to continue into summer 2021.
  • New York/New Jersey: Vessel wait time is 3-4 days. The closure of empty container yards has disrupted trucking operations. Port of NY/NJ Police has removed truckers from queues due to congestion.
  • Montreal: Read the latest about the Port Strike here.

Commercial Air Operations Update

IATA released an information page listing airlines' status globally, which is free for all to access. Visit the page here.

Charter Operations and Aircraft Availability

What charters do Crane Worldwide Logistics have available?

  • Capacity is available for charters globally. Contact us for current rates and availability.
  • If you have an opportunity, send us the details, and we can work on the current part charter capacity and pricing. Charter prices are based on current availability, and that could change rapidly. Size and rates have been fluctuating a lot over the past few days.
  • Crane Worldwide Logistics must have a signed charter authorization from our client before signing the charter contract with the provider.  Make sure you have someone standing by to sign agreements; capacity and rates change quickly.
  • On all charters, funds must be received from our client before wheels up.

Air Freight Update

  • American Airlines - On April 14, 2021, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) said it expected to operate more than 90% domestic and 80% of its international seat capacity compared to 2019 amid increased leisure demand for this summer season. "Throughout the pandemic, our trademark has been to build a schedule based on what customers tell us they want and need," said Brian Notions, American's Vice President of Network Planning. "And today, they are telling us they're eager to get back to travel." Rising vaccination rates across the U.S. are expected to contribute to more extensive traveling during this summer. American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) said it plans to implement more than 150 new routes this season. To match the international air travel demand, which according to the airline, will be 20% down compared to pre-pandemic levels, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) will continue offering more destinations to Latin America and the Caribbean. For international operations, the airline will be using wide-body aircraft, namely Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 787-8s. 
  • ASL Airlines - Cargo carrier ASL Airlines UK has operated its first flight after receiving its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) and operating license from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The carrier's first flight was operated by an ATR72-200 freighter aircraft from East Midlands Airport to Belfast International Airport. The aircraft will operate at Belfast International Airport daily from ASL Airlines UK's new base at East Midlands's Airlines UK said it's UK AOC is for the operation of cargo flights on a single route. Still, it is looking at opportunities to grow its domestic UK network and is applying for an EASA Third Country Operator (TCO) authorization for cargo flights from the UK to Europe. The carrier added that it will be closely aligned to ASL Airlines Ireland with common standard operating procedures and shared support services. "This corresponds to ASL Group's program to harmonize operations, remove unnecessary duplication, and the creation of 'centers of excellence' serving all airlines," the company said.
  • Cathay Pacific - Saw its cargo capacity drop by 25% in March due to new crew quarantine measures in Hong Kong. Writing in the airline's monthly cargo update, the general manager of cargo commercial George Edmunds said the new crew quarantine measures were the biggest obstacle to normal cargo operations.  The new measures, introduced on February 20, mean that all Hong Kong-based crews need to quarantine for two or three weeks when returning from an international flight. "These measures only affect airlines with Hong Kong-based aircrew and so apply to the vast majority of our pilots; therefore, there is an outsized impact on our operations relative to other carriers," Edmunds said. As a result, the airline flew around 25% less cargo capacity overall in March, with weekly freighter frequencies between Hong Kong and the U.S. reduced from the usual 34 to about 21-28 flights per week. Edmunds warned cargo capacity would fall further this month. "This schedule is further reduced this month as the crew who have volunteered for the closed-loop operation enter quarantine before a well-earned period of leave," Edmunds said. "The major impact of these quarantine requirements is on our long-haul routes, particularly to Europe, Southwest Pacific, and the Americas. "We have therefore looked to redeploy more freighters on regional and short-haul routes where closed-loop operations are not required." Rates on Hong Kong-North America routes have been rising quickly over the last couple of weeks, with Peter Stallion from air cargo derivatives broker suggesting that this is in part down to the new crew requirements out of Hong Kong. Last week, data from the Baltic Exchange Air Freight Index (BAI) showed that average airfreight rates from Hong Kong to North America increased to $8.29 per kg, up from $4.93 per kg start of March. Meanwhile, Edmunds also updated new U.S. requirements on flights from Hong Kong introduced by the U.S. Department of Transport (DoT) in response to the new quarantine rules. It said disproportionately affects the U.S.
  • China Eastern - On April 9, 2021, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced it had suspended all China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA) flights from New York to Shanghai for four weeks. The decision came as several COVID-19 cases were found on the Shanghai-bound flight. “Starting from April 19, 2021, the flight [MU588 - ed. note] will be suspended for four weeks. Flights on this route entering before April 19 can continue to be executed,” the Civil Aviation Administration of China wrote in a statement. The report by the Chinese regulator showed that ten individuals were carrying the COVID-19 infection on flight MU588 from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) on March 30, 2021. In a statement, the Chinese regulator also noted that China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA) would be required to guide passengers through the process of refunding and changing tickets for subsequent flights from New York to Shanghai that would be re-commenced on May 10, 2021.
  • Hong Kong and Singapore - Have agreed on the launch date for the long-awaited air travel bubble. The quarantine-free travel between Asia’s two business and financial hubs will begin on May 26, 2021. The air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will commence “cautiously” with only one flight a day to each destination with a maximum of 200 passengers on each flight for the first two weeks. Only passengers who have remained for 14 consecutive days in either city before departure will be granted the possibility to travel. Additionally, all travelers flying from Hong Kong will be required to provide proof of vaccination. No similar requirements have been outlined for Singaporean citizens. Furthermore, passengers from both cities will be required to download a contact-tracking app prior to their departure. Visitors will also have to take pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 swab tests. The travel bubble will be suspended if the seven-day moving average of unlinked community cases in either city increases to above five, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). “I am happy that Hong Kong got the COVID-19 situation under control. It has been a long few months, but the conditions are now ripe again to re-launch the ATB (Air Travel Bubble). Both sides will need to stay very vigilant in the next one month so that we can launch the first flights smoothly,” said Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Transport of the Republic of Singapore. The Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble was initially scheduled to launch on November 22, 2020. However, due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong, quarantine-free travel was deferred until the health matter was resolved.
  • Iberia - Is working with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on the development of the digital health passport known as the IATA Travel Pass, and it will be the first airline to launch it in Europe-Latin America routes, specifically in Uruguay, on its Madrid-Montevideo flights. The IATA Travel Pass provides a consistent, predictable, and safe framework on a global basis with the dual aims of simplifying the travel experience and encouraging people to fly, while also streamlining the process of verifying the requisite health documents. The new IATA Travel Pass is a smartphone app where the traveler can store, manage, and verify the health documents required by the different countries, certificates of COVID-19 test results, and soon vaccination certificates. Passengers flying from Madrid to Montevideo on IB6011 tomorrow, Saturday, April 10, will be the first to test this new app.
  • Emirates - As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines fuels the global debates over the use of digital health-related data to reopen air traveling, Emirates implemented a fully digital verification of medical records for passengers based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Emirates started offering its passengers a new check-in procedure that does not require them to present their physical PCR test report in the airport. Almost two months after signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the airline integrated a complete digital verification of medical data; all necessary documents for travelers who have undertaken a PCR test in Dubai or received the vaccination at the DHA health center could be synchronized during flight check-in. The airline expected that a complete digital synchronization of medical records should spur the check-in process for travelers departing from Dubai International Airport (DXB). Once the health-related data are matched up with the entry requirements of the passenger destination and the check-in process completed, all medical records are immediately deleted from the Emirates system, according to the carrier. Kleitham Ali Al Shamsi, the Director of IT at the DHA, highlighted that the strategic authority’s investment and focus on healthcare technology should provide significant benefits not only in the local health sector but also in the whole air travel sector. Al Shamsi also outlined that data synchronization has the potential to conveniently and effectively assist airlines in receiving the verified COVID-19 test results and vaccination records. “From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DHA has worked to connect all the laboratories that process COVID-19 test results in Dubai into DHA’s Outbreak Management system, this integration has been instrumental to help develop such a unique integration with Emirates Airline,” the Director was quoted in the Emirates statement. However, since some countries in the Emirates network still require passengers to carry the documents physically when traveling, passengers who have done the PCR testing or vaccination outside of Dubai would be still asked to provide a physical copy of necessary health care documentation while at check-in.
  • Emirates SkyCargo - Has operated the 500th passenger freighter flight serviced by Rickenbacker Airport (LCK), Ohio, on April 1, 2021. Emirates also operated the 501st passenger flight to the airport, EK 9909, which arrived just two hours later at LCK airport. Both flights, operated by Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER mini-freighters, were transporting PPE and other essential cargo. Emirates SkyCargo was the first air cargo carrier to operate a passenger freighter, a passenger aircraft operating a cargo-only flight, on May 28 2020, to Rickenbacker Airport. Over the last 10 months, the carrier has conducted more than 200 passenger freighter cargo flights to the airport. “ Emirates would like to extend its heartiest congratulations to Rickenbacker Airport on its passenger freighter milestone. We are delighted to have operated both the first and the 500th passenger freighter flights to the airport. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of air cargo connectivity in delivering essential goods such as PPE rapidly to communities. Rickenbacker Airport has been a strategic partner for Emirates SkyCargo in North America. We are grateful to the entire team at LCK, who has been extremely responsive and supportive of our requests over the last year,” said Hiran Perera, Emirates senior vice president, cargo planning & freighters.
  • France - The French Prime Minister Jean Castex was questioned during a parliamentary session of questions to the government on the decision of maintaining flights from Brazil despite a surge of COVID-19 cases, especially of the P1 variant. "Anyone must present a negative test before boarding and carry out a period of isolation of 10 days," Castex reassured, before announcing: "We note that the situation is worsening, and we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice. "Until now, two flights were being carried out by Air France daily between France and Brazil: a Boeing 777 from Rio, and an Airbus A350 from Sao Paulo, both arriving at Paris' main airport, Charles de Gaulle (CDG). On average, between 50 and 100 passengers were coming from Brazil every day. Countries neighboring Brazil, as well as several other European nations, including Portugal, Italy, and the United Kingdom, have already suspended flights coming from Brazil. The Latin-American country is facing an explosion of cases, with over 60,000 deaths in March 2021. In total, 330,000 people died from the COVID-19 virus. The P1 variant, observed first in Brazil, is a subject of concern, as it could be up to 2.5 times more contagious than the original strain. Several indications also suggest that P1 affects patients much younger than the other variants. The Brazilian Association of Intensive Care revealed on April 11, 2021, that more than half of the patients in intensive care in the country were under 50.
  • Qantas / Air New Zealand - As Australia and New Zealand are preparing to open a two-way travel bubble, Qantas and Air New Zealand are ramping up flights. Starting from April 19, 2021, Australia and New Zealand will open a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble, permitting air travel between the two countries once again. The countries shut their borders in March 2020. Since October 2020, Australia has reopened its borders to New Zealanders, but New Zealand is only returning the favor now. In response to the news, the biggest airlines across the Tasman Sea ramped up flights on the two-way bubble to most of the pre-pandemic level. Qantas Airways to reinstate 83% of Australia-New Zealand flights and its low-cost arm Jetstar are restarting flying to all pre-COVID destinations in New Zealand and launching two new routes direct from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast. In total, both airlines plan to operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes starting from April 19, 2021, Qantas outlined in a statement. The reinstated flights amount to 83% of pre-COVID capacity on the Trans-Tasman. In comparison, the airline has been operating less than 3% of its pre-COVID capacity as part of the existing one-way bubble. The high number of reinstated flights "reflects an elevated level of expected demand for what will be Australia's only international destination for at least the next six months, moderated by the fact that international tourists (beyond Australia and New Zealand) normally account for about 20% of the passengers flying between the two countries," according to the statement. "Qantas and Jetstar will look to grow capacity and the number of routes as the market recovers," the statement read. Air New Zealand is loading bubbles as it prepares for "reuniting Kiwis and kangaroos," Air New Zealand said it would ramp up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports starting from April 19, 2021.
  • Singapore Airlines - Hong Kong banned for two weeks after a COVID-19 infected passenger arrived in the country on board its flight. Hong Kong banned Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) for two weeks after a COVID-19 infected passenger arrived in the country on board its flight, the South China Morning Post reports on April 2, 2021. The infected passenger arrived in Hong Kong (HKG) on a Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) flight SQ882 on March 31, 2021. Three other passengers on the same flight were found non-complying with the local disease control rules, according to the publication. The flight SQ882 is a regular daily flight from Singapore (SIN). The airline operates it with an Airbus A350-900. Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) flights between Singapore and Hong Kong are banned from April 3 until April 16, 2021.
  • Virgin Atlantic - Which traditionally operates long-haul flights, is continuing to expand its all-cargo short-haul network in response to demand. The carrier yesterday announced that from April 25, it would begin flying a twice-weekly service between Frankfurt and its London Heathrow hub. The carrier said the flights would utilize 55-ton capacity B787 aircraft and offer same-day connections to and from the US to support machinery parts and healthcare products. Virgin Atlantic said that it planned to increase the frequency of the service to three times per week from May 1.“Virgin Atlantic looks forward to supporting strong demand to and from Germany, Europe’s largest economy with vital manufacturing link,” the carrier said. “Germany’s air trade was worth $316bn in 2020, boasting resilient demand despite the impact of Covid-19 upon business operations. “The route expects to carry various cargo goods, including machinery parts, healthcare products, chemicals, and motor vehicle parts. “Cargo capacity on the new Virgin Atlantic service will be marketed by Kales Aviation, the airline’s general sales agency in Germany, while Swissport has been awarded the cargo handling contract for export and import shipments. 
  • World Health Organization - The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee announced that requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition of entry would promote inequities regarding global vaccine distribution. "Do not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution," the WHO emergency committee announced on April 19, 2021. The U.N. health body's recommendations echo the criticism of a vaccine passport idea, which states that immunization requirements from COVID-19 for international travel would promote differential freedom of movement due to unequal rates of vaccination from COVID-19 across the globe. In addition, the WHO committee also opposed requiring proof of vaccination for international travel because of limited evidence about the vaccination impact on the COVID-19 transmission. Instead, the U.N. health body suggested that countries keep testing and quarantine measures for international travelers as well as "implement coordinated, time-limited, risk-based, and evidence-based approaches for health measures in relation to international traffic." However, the cash-strapped aviation sector sees the proof of vaccination as one of the best ways to lift border closures and rapidly revive international air travel from the ongoing crisis. To revive hardest-hit industries, such as aviation or tourism, numerous countries are launching digital health passports. The European Commission has recently announced that airlines and European member states could be using its proposed Digital Green Certificate by summer 2021. The Digital Green Certificate will be proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. China has already introduced its digital vaccine passport to ease traveling across borders, while airline companies partnering with IATA are considering requiring proof of vaccination using IATA's Travel Pass. Following successful trials by Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY), the Singapore health and border control authorities approved IATA Travel Pass as a valid form of presentation of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. Beginning May 1, 2021, passengers traveling to Singapore will be able to use IATA Travel Pass to share their pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test results and proof of vaccination.

Ground Update

United States

  • Shippers continue to see very tight TL capacity leading to paying premiums around 20% higher than their contracted rates. Given the capacity environment, shippers have been hesitant to conduct a network-wide bid and are opting for shorter-term mini bids which have resulted in low double-digit contract rate increases. Also, shippers are seeing a very tight LTL market, and are currently planning for 6% rate increases, higher than 4%-5% in a normal year.
  • New Truck Capacity Insights: Class 8 Truck Net Orders: March industry heavy truck orders increased 426% Y/Y to 40k units, up compared to February’s  213%  Y/Y increase  as  we see easier comparisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medium duty orders increased sequentially to 31.4k in March vs. 26.3k in February and increased 106% Y/Y. Source: ACT Research Company

class 8 truck net orders

  • Used Truck Prices Spike. Class 8 used truck prices increased another 6% m/m in March. Prices are now up 33% y/y with the biggest increases in older trucks with 5- and 7- year-old prices up 69% and 46%, respectively, last month.  Used truck inventories also declined for the 14th straight month and spot momentum should remain positive with strong demand and constraints to new truck builds. This all seems positive for Ryder’s earnings this year.
  • Spot TL rates are no longer at a premium to contract rates. The closing of the premium reflects the rise in contract rates (mid-cycle price increases in late 3Q) and (likely related) incremental softness in spot market rates. As a result, this lack of premium will likely limit further meaningful increases in contract rates that have been reset higher over the past 6-9 months. Our work indicates 2021 TL bids will likely be +/- MSD% versus current levels.
    • Spot Market Pricing
      • Dry Van National Average RPM @ $2.62 (down $0.02 from prior week)
        • $0.03 behind of current contract rates
        • $1.00 ahead of April 2020 spot rates
      • Flatbed National Average RPM @ $2.94 (up $0.02 from prior week)
        • Level with contract rates
        • $1.01 ahead of April 2020 spot rates
      • Intermodal National Average RPM @ $1.66 (down $0.06 from prior week)
        • $0.30 ahead of April 2020 spot rates
  • Dry-van Truckload spot rates were relatively unchanged versus 30 days ago, but remain +60% Y/Y and at decade-highs. Strong demand trends (including above average use of spot market capacity) likely continue into the next 6+ months, likely offsetting initial signs of cyclical capacity expansion (Class 8 truck orders). Rising fuel prices will also likely add to spot market prices. As a result, any moderation in rate vs current levels appears to be likely pushed into 4Q.

dry van tl spot rates

  • Diesel has declined in price for Four consecutive weeks, currently at $3.124 per gallon (declined 4 consecutive weeks) 2% behind prior month, 16% increase year to date, 26% increase year over year. Fuel (gallon of diesel nationwide average). Source:

national fuel surcharge history

  • For the first time in the rail container volume index history, nonholiday empty containers outnumber the loaded container volumes heading into Los Angeles. This occurred briefly at the beginning of 2019 around New Year’s when the trade war with China was escalating. Empty international containers are controlled mainly by maritime operators and can signal growth in import volumes. This one, however, may just illustrate how dire the situation really is as inland export clients are not even being offered these containers for export loads, they are being moved empty back to LA/Long Beach empty so they can get them back to Asia to handle more imports.

  • Industry shipper surveys show volume and overall budget expectations surged to all-time records, with shippers expecting same-store volumes to rise 7% this year and overall freight spending to increase over 10%. Nearly 90% of shippers cited TL capacity tightness, near historical peak levels. Shippers now expect their TL rates to increase 5.5% over the next 12 months, accelerated from +4.6%, which they stated last quarter.
  • Demand continues to outpace supply and forecast in coming months showing demand growing. Near term outlook for trucking is strong, with 60% of surveyed shippers cited that their inventory levels are lower year-over-year, the highest percentage since 2010. Also, 59% of shippers noted that current inventories are below target levels, by far the highest level in the survey’s history. Nearly 70% of shippers expect inventory shortfalls to continue into the back half of the year, so now we’re expecting inventory re-stocking to support substantial freight volumes all year. Also, nearly 50% of shippers expect to insource some of their production to the U.S. or near-source to Mexico over the next five years, the highest level since this question has been asked on the survey. Expectations for near-sourcing to Mexico increased significantly from last quarter as well.
  • The significant cost story for carriers before the pandemic was insurance premiums. While carriers struggle to keep up with demand, their insurance costs have leaped a percent of revenue. As a percentage of revenue, the data shows that insurance cost is taking a 16% jump in the first two months of 2021. Driver recruiting is also a significant problem, limiting carrier growth while the operating cost is growing faster than ever. A similar scenario played out at the end of the 2017-18 freight boom. Cost inflation from insurance, maintenance, equipment, and wages lasted beyond the yearlong freight boom that saw spot rates surge to all-time highs for an unprecedented amount of time.
  • Contract rates are still increasing following trends in spot activity. Higher spot rates primarily drive this due to the number of original tenders being rejected by primary carriers. Contract rates have moved higher than spot rates due to clients putting out tenders/RFPs and pulling freight out of the spot market but stabilizing their service.
  • Truckload spot market demand rose dramatically last month as seasonal demand accelerated and weather impacts created significant backlogs. During the first week of April, Spot market demand is +335% versus one year ago as we cross easier comparisons due to COVID. Spot market capacity has come down since April and is now down 40% Y/Y.

tl spot freight vs tl spot capacity index

  • Diesel has declined in price for three consecutive weeks, currently at $3.129 per gallon, 2% behind the prior month, but a 17% increase year to date and 25% increase year over year.
  • U.S. Intermodal container volumes were up 34% Y/Y (up 30% M/M) on a calendar-adjusted basis due to organic growth and share gains from TL. Intermodal volume realization remains constrained due to rail capacity scarcity, imbalanced demand flows, and slower container turns due to warehouse/drayage congestion.

  • Demand continues to outpace supply and forecast in coming months showing demand growing. Near term outlook for trucking is strong. This is primarily due to lower inventory levels and a broader return of the economy and manufacturing industry. Also, the port congestion on both coasts has created a backlog of freight. The freight market's supply-side remains very tight, with the driver shortage driving the current environment. The port congestion is causing retailers to seek alternate routes furthering the volatility the industry has experienced since the onset of the Covid pandemic. Congestion is anticipated to linger into the summer.
  • Demand for drivers is at an all-time high, forcing carriers to increase driver pay. This has also caused an uptick in driver turnover as fleets compete from an ever-shrinking pool of candidates. The inflow of drivers is still being impacted by driving school closures or reduced limits, competing industries – construction and manufacturing, and many drivers affected by the Drug and Clearinghouse not pursuing returning to work.
  • You could hardly devise better market conditions for trucking companies as demand is robust in both the consumer and industrial sectors and lingering labor-related challenges due to the pandemic are keeping a lid on capacity," said FTR's Vice President of Trucking Avery Vise. FTR's near-term outlook for trucking is strong as well.
  • Contract rates are still increasing following trends in spot activity. Higher spot rates primarily drive this due to the number of original tenders being rejected by primary carriers. Contract rates did move higher than spot rates two weeks ago, reversing an inverted trend for the past month. 
  • Total spot rates posted in the were the highest ever during the week ended April 9 (week 14). Excluding fuel surcharges, the average real spot rate was $2.464 per mile, edging out the $2.455 recorded at the end of June 2018. Load postings rose 4.9% week over week. Dry van load postings edged up 1.2% week over week. Volume has held relatively steady over the past four weeks after stabilizing from the weather-related spike in week 8. Volume was 318% higher than the same 2020 week and about 148% higher than the five-year average.
  • Union Pacific Railroad is raising the surcharge on excess contract cargo of low-volume shippers from $250 to $1,500 and instituting a new $1,000 surcharge for large and medium-volume shippers in Los Angeles and Lathrop, California, effective April 25, according to an announcement by the railroad obtained the Journal of Commerce. It's the first time UP has instituted such a peak-season fee before the summer.
  • In March, U.S. Class 8 retail sales jumped 33.7% to 22,031 as all truck makers posted gains compared with a year earlier, as reported by Wards Auto. However, production delays are reportedly making it difficult for fleets to get the trucks they need when they need them. Through the first quarter, sales hit 54,222. That was 14% higher compared with 47,582 in the 2020 period. In March 2020, Class 8 sales were 16,477, according to Wards. Supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages are causing further production issues.
  • Diesel has declined in price for three consecutive weeks, totaling 6.5 cents, after 20 straight weeks of increases totaling 82.2 cents—a gallon of diesel on average costs 6.22 cents more than it did a year ago. Diesel's price declined in all ten regions in EIA's survey, with the Rocky Mountain region (2.3 cents) and Midwest (2.2 cents) posting the most significant drops.
  • Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,430,331—saw a 24%, or 276,781 units—increase from March 2020 to March 2021. 

  • All signs point to higher freight demand in the near term with no immediate capacity relief. Port Congestion is prompting shifts to alternative routes – East Coast – causing volatility in the trucking industry. With Truckload capacity remaining tight, contract rates appear to be 10% over last year. Contracts also appear to be of much shorter duration as shippers and carriers deal with a highly volatile market. Spot rates moderated somewhat the previous week, with contract pricing surpassing spot quotes. Spot rates are still close to the highest point achieved in mid-2018. Spot load posts on the DAT load board were up nearly 130% YoY in March, but capacity continues to be an issue, with truck postings falling almost 7% YoY. YOY comparisons don't tell as much right now due to the impact of Covid on last March and April. Dry Van National Average rate per mile was down 4 cents last week to $2.65 and 9 cents lower than average contract rates by lane. Flatbed capacity remains very tight.
  • Class 8 tractor orders jumped 424% over last March (Covid Impact), to 40,000 but down about 10% from February. This demand level is well above the replacement level and takes into consideration anticipated economic recovery. The truck manufacturing industry struggles to deliver these orders in 2021 due to supply chain and semiconductor constraints. Actual order fulfillment in 2021 will be determined on the supply side and not demand in the market.
  • Diesel declined 1.7 cents to $3.14. The second week in a row it has declined but remains almost 60 cents more than a year ago.
  • The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) annual 72-hour safety blitz is set for May 4-6. Inspectors will focus on vehicle mechanical fitness and driver's hours of service. HOS violations were the top out of service category for 2020. Operation Safe Driver Week will take place July 11-17 and focus on speeding and risky driving behavior in and around commercial vehicles.
  • Rail volumes were up close to 16% last week and YOY comps are skewed by the impact of Covid this time last year. As an example, intermodal volumes are up 25% from last year. Intermodal trailers and containers—at 289,170—rose 25.8% annually, topping the week ending March 20, at 282,270, and trailing the week ending March 13, at 290.052.
  • The lack of available capacity, congestion, rate impact, and transport delays have made it to the C level and into publicly traded quarterly reports. Multiple Fortune 100 companies have called out supply chain challenges in their latest earning reports to impact their margins and bottom-line results. Full truckload carriers continue to struggle to provide coverage into the first quarter of this year and costs/rates have increased. Demand continues to outpace supply. Outbound tender rejection rates shot up last week, exceeding 28%. They have been consistently above 25% since mid-February. This, along with a 4% increase in outbound tenders, caused the rate per mile for dry vans to increase 6% last week.
  • The rise in "nuclear verdicts" in lawsuits is threatening the trucking industry. The average verdict size on lawsuits involving a truck crash increased 1,000% from 2010. "Nuclear Verdicts" – those where a jury awards surpass $10 million are driving up insurance rates to unaffordable levels, causing many carriers to leave the market. The trucking industry sees this as unfairly punitive and biased against trucking companies and the insurance industry lobbying for tort reform in many states.
  • The chip shortage that has plagued the automotive industry is also impacting the production of Class 8 Tractors. This will affect the supply of tractors for an industry that has pumped up orders into 2021. Supply chain constraints are also having an impact, in addition to the chip shortage.

Regional Update



  • Up-swinging demand for capacities – North America rate levels at € 4,00 to € 6,50/kg – short term space is at € 8,50/kg.
  • China demand for capacities is up as well as the rates into PVG, currently seeing rates above € 1,30/kg – usually between € 0,60 to € 0,75/kg.
  • Biggest handling agent of Frankfurt Airport, called FCS (subsidiary of Fraport) is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within their warehouse facility. Due to that the handling agent is only able to service with reduced staff, especially in the import handling they are dealing with a 3-4-day backlog of import shipments. FCS is handling in the ranking of first -in, first-out, no express or expedited handing is available.


  • Container space out of China is critical into Germany, also rail and truck capacities are low! Also, vessels out of Germany into China and US are currently overbooked, current space bookable is 4 weeks. Rate level at +USD 9.000,00/40’ Currently offering the clients option to book it LCL as co-loaders seems to have space open.
  • Equipment as well as vessel overbooking is a huge challenge into global destinations out of Germany as well as West-European Ports.
  • Container space out of Germany is critical in general out of Germany due to Equipment shortages!


  • China to Germany rail capacities for USD 11.000,00/40’.



  • Air export to US has reduced significantly compared with peak rates at end of December
  • Rates to AP back down to pre-COVID levels, except for Australia
  • Import from AP still at a premium, pre–Chinese New Year, with high volatility
  • Expecting to see effects of rates to ME following lifting of Qatar embargo


  • Equipment problems have eased but still space restraints on both EB and WB export lanes. Increases announced for February transatlantic and to FE/ME. LATAM rates increased after many years
  • Import from FE not takings bookings locally, customers looking for space (the rate hikes have been accepted on the market)


  • Currently trying to secure China to Germany rail capacities for USD 14.000,00/40’

Netherlands & Belgium


  • Space capacity slightly opening up, decrease in costs
  • Booking confirmation are subject to airline approval
  • Still require booking in advance
  • Flight schedule subject to change without further notice and transit


  • Space very still tight EU- Middle East & EU-Far East,   Far East – EU 
  • Container shortages resulting into additional fees implemented by carriers such as Equipment Imbalance fee
  • Rates Far East – EU at all record high level, expectations this will continue until Chinese New Year and  the weeks after Chinese New Year. 
  • Congestion in the US Port such as New York and Los Angeles as well as inland Rail terminals in the USA.
  • Timely booking, correct and longterm accurate forecast is key to ship in time.
  • HL: Area Germany & Central Europe – Equipment Shortage 40´GP & HC – Temporary Booking Stop
  • HL: Equipment Imbalance Surcharge - Exports from North Europe (excl. UK and Ireland)



  • Cargolux has now been advised by the relevant EU department due to Brexit cargo transiting the UK via RFS to LUX is no longer part of the EU Security Regime. For this reason it must be screened again at Luxembourg. LUX security will apply for this as follows


  • Stena doubling Rosslare-Cherbourg sailings due to post-Brexit demand
  • Rosslare Europort, which is operated by Iarnród Eireann, will have up to 30 direct services to and from Europe next year
  • We are seeing a huge shift away from UK Land bridge into mainland Europe



  • Received circular from QA on resuming service to Damma, Riyadh and Jeddah by next week. Awaiting circular on the other countries too.


  • Milaha issued circular on resuming service. But not yet started booking. Few NVOCC operators service between Jebel Ali and Doha till date was not authorized. They used to switch BL in Oman. In the present circumstances, they are able to issue Direct BLs.  All other lines like MSL, CMA, HLL, MSC awaiting approval from line desk for discharge/loading in Jebel Ali port.


  • Land Freight struck following COVID-19 protocol by the drivers that is to have hotel quarantine for one week which is not a viable option. But there a discussion going on in the Ministry of Transport to remove this hassle by forming an isolation camp near Abu Samra border for the drivers arriving from Saudi Arabia.

South Africa


  • Market rates are still on a per shipment basis, and some airlines are now applying their gold / express rates.
  • Space availability is subject to the time of booking and last minute off-loads can be expected due to space availability.


  • Co-Loaders are constantly sending through GRI increases during the month for Far East trade lane
  • Some Co-loader rates are being revised BI-monthly
  • Constant Space and Price issues from Far East for FCL.
  • Currently the Rates are extremely high, eg: Rate end of November for a 40ft(Ningbo-Durban): USD 3500.00, currently the rates are USD 6250.00
  • Delays for Inland movement from Durban to Johannesburg via Rail due to cable Theft
  • Sailings into Cape Town, from the Far East are difficult to secure space, and rates are much higher.



  • Mainland EU connections back to normal
  • UK RA/KC Security status not currently recognized by EU so any freight transiting through Mainland EU treated as ‘ Insecure
  • Limited Capacity to India, Australia & US


  • UK Container and truck haulage now stable but very busy (expect up to 4 days for collections / deliveries)
  • Ports less congested but still delays. Most SSL now implementing UK port congestion surcharges
  • Vessels delayed inbound and outbound by up to 7 days
  • Some vessels still omitting UK ports
  • Vessel space for exports on most lanes / lines

Global Border Crossing Status and restrictions

  • Facilitated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, read more here.

Land Borders

  • Sixfold have a free application that maps out European borders with live information on crossing times. Read more here.

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