Market Update | March 2021

March 24, 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.

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

  • Suez Canal Backlog
  • U.S. Port Update 
  • Port of Long Beach WAVE (Weekly Advanced Volume Estimate)
  • Port of LA/LB Congestion
    • Shipping congestion outside the biggest U.S. gateway for imports from Asia showed signs of easing over the past week as dockworkers made progress reducing by almost half a backlog that peaked at 40 vessels six weeks ago. Twenty-two container ships were waiting to offload at the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as of Sunday, compared with 29 a week earlier, according to officials who monitor marine traffic in Southern California’s San Pedro Bay. Thirteen more are scheduled to arrive over the next three days, with nine of those set to drop anchor. The average wait for berth space was 7.6 days, little changed from 7.5 days a week ago, according to the L.A. port. (Source: Bloomberg). The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have settled into a pattern of congestion that virtually every sector of the international supply chain says will last at least into the summer months — and possibly longer — if second-half volumes don’t wane. (Source: JOC).
  • ONE APUS latest update
    • The vessel has successfully departed Kobe on March 16, 2021, 1300 hrs. Her estimated date to arrive in Long Beach remains to be on or around March 30, 2021, without guarantee and subject to change. Though, regarding ONE APUS’s berthing schedule in Long Beach, she is expected to wait for her berth, estimated to be on April 7, 2021, due to the ongoing congestion in San Pedro Bay area, without guarantee and subject to change. As advised, while the general plan was to back-load as many original sounds and transloaded containers on ONE APUS as reasonably possible, there are some containers originally carried on ONE APUS may need to be carried on different vessels due to safety and/or operational constraints, or where the required documentation could not be completed in time for ONE APUS. For such cases, affected customers has been informed and will be advised subsequently by our sales representatives regarding their alternative arrangement. For containers sailing on ONE APUS, customers who have not completed import entry submission are requested to do so as per the usual process.

Ocean Operations

  • Port of LA and LB are currently severely congested.
  • Space and equipment availability has been limited for the past 9 months, especially from inland locations.
  • GRI from the US is to all destinations is going into effect in March and April of 2021.
  • Free time requests have become restricted globally. Existing free times are being honored so far. But ocean carriers decline new requests. Extended equipment detention free time is for the new contracts remains unlikely as carriers seek to turn equipment much faster.

Future Expectation for 2021-2022

  • Shippers Face Increasing Bunker Surcharges Amid Rising Fuel Costs.
    • Higher fuel costs are triggering increases in ocean carrier bunker surcharges.
  • Increasing vaccinations will eventually ease US port congestion.
    • Expect to see less pressure on container traffic and ports by the second half of the year.
    • According to JOC analysts, The US economy will rebound strongly from the recession this year, especially in the second half, with US real gross domestic product (GDP) rising 5.7 percent in 2021. That should reduce congestion at US ports and lead to a more normal year in 2022.
  • Global Cargo Traffic Jam Could Last to 2022.
    • According to Sea-Intelligence analysis, almost 87% of the arrivals were late for Asia-North America west coast, And when they are late, they are on average more than 10 days late.
    • Maritime rates have surged the most. The cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Hong Kong to Los Angeles has nearly quadrupled in the last year.
  • US ocean freight import growth is set to continue throughout 2021.
    • According to the analyst, US demand for goods from the Far East continues to be the root cause of wider market dislocations and shortages of equipment and vessels. Asia-US volumes reached over 5 million TEU in Q4 20, the highest level on record.
    • Looking ahead, it is expected to see the US demand surge continue into Q2 2021.
    • Since port executives at the key US terminals expect ongoing congestion some way into Q2 2021, analysts believe the trans-Pacific market will absorb an abnormal volume of tonnage for the next 3-4 months at least.
    • But the analyst’s latest container report says there are indications that spot freight rates will start to ease in the coming months from their current record-high levels.

Ocean Port Status 

  • Prince Rupert and Vancouver: Vessel wait time is 3-4 days, Port delays are an additional 2-4 days.
  • Seattle: Fri 3/26 – T18 and T30 all day closed.
  • Oakland: Vessel wait time is 3 days. Nearly 20 vessels waiting to discharge, including 10 container ships.
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach:
    • Fri 3/26 – ETS, ITS, PCT, Pier A, and YTI 2nd shift closed.
      • Vessel wait time is 7+ days. Over 30 vessels waiting to discharge, including nearly 20 container ships.
      • IPI On Dock Rail delayed 7+ days.
      • Major Chassis shortages, delaying MLB/Doors, average LALB MLB dwell is 3+ days, some stragglers aging to 7+ days.
      • Cargo is buried, expediting containers from any terminal after discharge is quite difficult.
      • Due to continuing stay-at-home-orders for the LALB area due to hospitalization surge, delays for vessels, rail, and trucking are expected to increase significantly over the next 3 weeks.
  • New York/New Jersey: Vessel wait time is 4-5 days.  More vessels are arriving due to exports before Chinese New Year. Closure of empty container yard has disrupted trucking operations.
  • Montreal: Longshoremen rejected the latest offer from Maritime Employers Association for truce that ended March 21. The union doesn’t intend to strike for now but lack of an agreement could stop port operations at any time.

Rail Update

  • US East Coast
    • Philadelphia- Severe delays due to continued terminal congestion and extreme chassis shortages. Atlanta (Fairburn) to Long Beach Gate Restrictions - CSX has closed their Atlanta Fairburn facility to all BNSF loads. There is no timetable yet as to when this restriction will be lifted.
  • US Mid-West
    • Chicago - has been impacted by delays due to ramp congestion and chassis shortages.
  • US West Coast
    • BNSF Los Angeles Hobart Gate Restrictions - Due to a derailment in Southern California, BNSF implemented gate restrictions to help assist with recovery efforts.

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

Hong Kong Air Export Screening Requirement - There will now be 100% screening for both passenger and cargo flights effective as of March 1, 2021. The screening fees are as follows: Charge item = X-ray screening fee: HKD 0.80 per kg. Click to view more

  • Air China - China Southern Airlines (ZNH) and China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA), reported their estimated annual losses in 2020, collectively reaching a total of CNY30 billion ($4.6 billion) net loss. Among China’s three largest airlines Air China is expected to perform the worst, as it forecasted a net loss of between CNY13.5 and 15.5 billion ($2.1 and2.4 billion), while the net profit in 2019 was CNY6.4 billion ($992 million).In the first half of 2020, Air China’s net loss was up to CNY9.4 billion ($1.4 billion). In the second half of 2020, the airline’s losses gradually narrowed, as the company continued to manage cost controls. Meanwhile, Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA) forecasted a net loss between CNY9.8 and 12.5 billion ($1.5 and 1.9 billion), while in 2019, it managed to reach a net profit of up to CNY3.2 billion($496 million).“Although the company tried all means to increase revenue and reduce costs, it still was severely impacted by the epidemic,” read the China Eastern Airlines (CIAH) (CEA) statement. Among China’s “Big Three”, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) forecasted the smallest financial loss. The country’s largest airline by passenger numbers predicted a net loss of between CNY7.9 to 10.8 billion ($1.2 to1.6 billion). In comparison, it posted a net profit of CNY2.7 billion ($418 million) in 2019. The Guangzhou-based airline said in a statement that its operational capacity for international routes fell by 80.6% in 2020, compared to a year prior. All three state-owned airlines said that operating results were adversely affected due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to negatively influence passenger demand and has led to net losses. According to the statistics of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reported in November 2020, international air traffic levels were down by 86.1% and domestic air traffic fell by 32.1%. “Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the traveling willingness of passengers dropped sharply, which had a significant impact on the global aviation industry,” indicated a China Southern Airlines (ZNH) statement.
  • Air Europa - International Airlines Group (IAG) (IAG) announced its final agreement to acquire Spanish air carrier Air Europa for €500 million ($612.5 million) on January 19, 2021. “Under the terms of the Amendment Agreement, the parties have agreed that the amount to be paid by Iberia for Air Europa will be reduced from an equity value of €1 billion to €500 million with payment deferred until the sixth anniversary of the Acquisition’s completion,” the statement read. The acquisition is still subject to approval by European Commission. The completion of Air Europa acquisition is expected to take place in the second half of 2021, if all conditions of the Amendment Agreement are fulfilled, according to the statement. “Being part of a large group is the best guarantee to overcome current market challenges which will also benefit Air Europa once the transaction is completed. I am pleased that we have reached agreement with Globalia to defer payment until well into the expected recovery in air travel,” CEO of IAG Luis Gallego said. IAG believes that the purchase of Air Europa would further expand the group’s network in Spain. The group already controls a significant part of Spanish market, as it owns Iberia and Vueling. It also would increase the significance of IAG’s Madrid hub, transforming it into a major rival to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports. “This transaction makes perfect strategic sense to reinforce Madrid's hub competitiveness on a global stage. It will benefit consumers and Air Europa’s incorporation into the Iberia Group will improve the company's viability benefitting both Iberia and Air Europa employees,” Javier Sánchez-Prieto, Iberia’s chief executive, said. On November 4, 2019, IAG initially agreed to buy Air Europa for €1 billion ($1.2 billion). However, due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, British Airways parent company IAG has been pushing to reduce the price. In October 2020, CEO of International Airline Group Luis Gallego reaffirmed the group’s interest in buying Air Europa. “For sure if possible, we would like to do this deal,” Gallego said. “We are waiting to see the package and the conditions attached, and at that moment, we will continue the negotiation.”
  • American - Bots and machine learning are increasingly coming into play at American Airlines Cargo – and early trials indicate significant improvements in efficiency. Ots have been deployed to perform repetitive functions usually carried out by employees dealing with bookings, evaluating a booking request and determining if it be approved or declined. If the shipment characteristics fall within certain criteria, a bot can confirm it 10 times faster than the manual process, according to the airline. And able to work around the clock, bots can handle bookings of clearly defined products when employees are off, but for the most part, however, they are not currently used in a customer-facing capacity, but to assist employees, taking care of repetitive steps, allowing them to concentrate on solutions, said Maulin Vakil, MD of cargo customer care & performance. 
  • British Airways - With carriers determined to save costs amid the crisis currently hitting the air transport industry, the Airbus A380 has been one of the prime targets among wide-body airliners heading to retirement. Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and Air France already announced that their Super Jumbos would not return into service. But British Airways’ twelve A380s may not join their brethren. Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, announced that the A380 would eventually return to operations. “The A380 isn’t flying at the minute but it is in our plans for the future rebuild of the airline,” he told The Independent. “Exactly when we will put the A380 back into service is something that we’re not clear on.” Doyle forecasts that British Airways would not return to its pre-pandemic level for another two to three years. “Our best guess is 2023-24,” he said. Sean Doyle was appointed CEO of British Airways following the departure of Alex Cruz in October 2020 amid what the company defined as the industry’s “worst crisis.” He was previously holding the same position at Aer Lingus, another airline of the IAG group, for nearly two years.
  • Emirates - Emirates reportedly ordered its staff to take a free COVID-19 vaccination or to undergo regular testing in order to ensure that none of the employees are infected with the virus. According to the internal letter to the staff seen by media, Emirates asked all of its unvaccinated employees to take free vaccination. For those who refuse to get vaccinated, the airline ordered them to pay for their own regular testing procedures. The price for tests in Dubai, where the air carrier is based, costs up to $40. The airline informed the staff that starting from March 15, 2021, non-vaccinated staff will have to pay for their tests every seven days prior to the beginning of standby duty of flight. “Certain countries may in the future differentiate entry criteria between those who have taken the vaccine and those who did not. Keeping this in mind, having a vaccinated workforce has become essential not just from a health and safety angle but from an operational one too,” the letter informed outlining that the vaccination policy is mandatory for the whole staff in the United Arab Emirates. Having offered the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines, Emirates started a free UAE-based staff vaccination in January 2021. Under the program, the airline prioritized vaccinating its frontline aviation workforce, including cabin crew and flight crew members as well as focused workers.
  • Etihad Airways - Hopes the air travel demand will recover only by 2023, but a significant rise will already come in late 2021. According to Martin Drew, the Senior Vice President of Sales & Cargo at Etihad Airways, the carrier’s previous hopes to see the recovery by 2023 are being pushed back by a year, the Airways magazine reports. Nevertheless, the UAE’s national airline hopes to see strong demand in the second half of 2021. Drew also confirmed that Etihad Airways remains onboard with intentions to adopt IATA Travel Pass, something the airline announced an intention to do in January 2021.
    • Severely hit by lower demand amid the pandemic, Etihad Airways reported an operating loss of $1.7 billion for 2020, compared to a loss of $800 million in 2019. Operating revenues were halved as passenger numbers dropped by 76%, to 4.2 million, down from 17.5 million the year before. For air cargo, freight revenue saw an improvement of 77%, standing at $1.2 billion compared to $700 million in 2019. “Covid shook the very foundation of the aviation industry, but thanks to our dedicated people and the support of our shareholder, Etihad stood firm and is ready to play a key role as the world returns to flying,” Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, said. “While nobody could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, our focus on optimizing core business fundamentals over the past three years put Etihad in good stead to respond decisively to the global crisis.” Etihad said its 2020 operations focused on the Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 aircraft due to their range, efficiency, and cargo capacity capabilities in the belly of the aircraft. The airline received two new Boeing 787 Dreamliners during 2020, bringing the number of its fleet to 103 aircraft. The future of the company’s A380 fleet remains uncertain. Since 2017, Etihad is shrinking its operations and harmonizing its fleet, and was ahead of its transformation targets prior to the pandemic, with a 55% cumulative improvement in core results at the end of 2019. The carrier said it projected “a complete turnaround by 2023,” after the pandemic accelerated its transition to a “leaner and more agile business.”
  • IAG - International Airlines Group (IAG) (IAG), the owner of British Airways, plunged to the biggest loss in its history, as a result of continued negative impacts to passenger demand due to COVID-19 crisis. On February 26, 2021, IAG reported a net loss of €6.9 billion ($8.4 billion) after tax in 2020 compared to a net profit of €1.7 billion ($2.1 billion) after tax in 2019. The airline’s financial results also disclosed the operating loss of €7.4 billion ($9 billion) in 2020 compared with a profit of €2.6 billion ($3.2 billion) in 2019. “Our results reflect the serious impact that COVID-19 has had on our business. We have taken effective action to preserve cash, boost liquidity and reduce our cost base. Despite this crisis, our liquidity remains strong,” Luis Gallego, the Chief Executive of IAG Group, said. Following the financial statement, IAG’s passenger capacity, which was crucial for the group’s financial performance, slumped by 34%. Looking to the future, IAG indicated that passenger capacity plans for the first quarter of 2021 would be only around 20% of the group’s pre-pandemic capacity. However, the cargo business tipped the balance and compensated for decreased passenger demand. The group disclosed that it operated 4,003 cargo-only flights and increased its cargo revenue by 17% compared to 2019. “IAG Cargo’s turnover increased by almost €200 million to €1.3 billion. Cargo helped to make long haul passenger flights viable,” Gallego added. Furthermore, the airline group said that due to the uncertainty over the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, it would not provide profit guidance for 2021.
  • Lufthansa - The newly appointed chief executive of Lufthansa Cargo, Dorothea von Boxberg, is expecting another good year in 2021 but adds that rates are likely to cool in the second half. Lufthansa Cargo yesterday announced a record adjusted operating profit of €772m, more than double the previous record of €342m in 2010.The “extraordinary results” were because of “extraordinary circumstances”, von Boxberg said, with profits largely driven by high rates as a result of the loss of bellyhold capacity. Reduced costs also played a part. It’s been a great year. We love to have those results, we are proud of it and we are happy to be able to contribute to the group,” she said. “We know that it won’t last forever, but how long it lasts is of course a question we think about. “Looking ahead, von Boxberg expects demand to remain strong this year. She pointed out that volumes from China began to thrive at the end of last year, US inventory levels remain low and business confidence in Europe is high. In terms of sectors of importance for Lufthansa Cargo, the automotive industry recovered at the end of last year, pharma volumes continue to grow and cross-border e-commerce demand continues to rise – last year this sector increased by 10% and is expected to return to 20% growth next year. However, the capacity situation is expected to change this year.
  • Qantas - After reporting a loss of $1.03 billion that put the airline’s workers at risk of losing jobs, Qantas Airways pushed the restart of international travel to October 2021. On February 25, 2021, Australia’s biggest carrier announced it suffered a half-yearly net loss of $1.03 billion. While many domestic routes in Australia are slowly recovering, international travel is still highly restricted. The airline announced that the date of international travel restarting is being pushed to October 2021 from the previously planned July 2021. “More certainty that domestic borders can stay open because frontline and quarantine workers will be vaccinated in a matter of weeks,” said Joyce. “And more certainty that international borders can open when the nationwide rollout is effectively complete by the end of October. “According to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, around 7500 international flight workers are at “prime risk” of losing their jobs as the opening of the borders gets postponed. “The prime issue is going to be around 7500 people that are fully dedicated to international — they will have no work,” said Joyce. “Through no fault of theirs, (these workers) are going to be without the income that they built their lives on for a period of time without those borders opening up.” Qantas aims to have restored 60% of pre-COVID domestic capacity by September and 80% by the end of 2021. The major Australian airlines, Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Rex Airlines are currently battling for customers on the domestic routes. To compete with other airlines, Qantas had dropped prices on the Sydney-Melbourne route and introduced a "Fly Flexible" policy that permits travelers to have unlimited flight changes until January 2022. Earlier in 2020, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced plans to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for international air travelers once the vaccine was widely available, saying that such measurements would be a necessity if the air travel wanted to reach pre-COVID conditions. Currently, Qantas is serving limited international flights, mainly to repatriate Australian citizens stuck overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic. The only travelers allowed to Australia are those who have been in New Zealand for more than 14 days, according to Australia’s Department of Health.
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines - The flag carrier of the country, stepped into funding agreements with six local banks to purchase 73 aircraft. Saudi Arabian Airlines signed a $3 billion funding deal ‒ the largest financing agreement in its operating history. The airline plans to use the funding to expand its fleet by purchasing 20 Airbus A321neos, 15 A321XLRs, 30 A320neos as well as 8 Boeing 787-10 jets. The A320neo jets would go to Saudi’s low-cost arm Flydeal. The financing should cover the airline’s needs until mid-2024.  The fleet expansion is part of Saudi’s aims to follow the country’s plan to attract 100 million visitors as well as 30 million Umrah pilgrims each year.
  • United Kingdom - Will spend £5.5 million ($7.6 million) to reorganize and modernize flight paths. It is the country’s first initiative of the kind since the airways system was created in the 1950s. Given how ancient some British flight paths are, the growth of demand and the expansion of the network resulted in “an increase in delays, noise, and pollution,” according to the British Department for Transport. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the air transport industry, as many as 7,000 aircraft per day operated in the UK's airspace. Thus, the British Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority jointly announced on March 19, 2021, that a fund of £5.5 million ($7.6 million) would be created to “develop and evaluate design options aimed at making journeys quicker, quieter, and cleaner. ”We’re delighted that the government has reaffirmed the essential role that airspace modernization will play in helping the aviation industry to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mark Swan, Head of the Airspace Change Organizing Group (ACOG), said. “We will continue to work with our partners across the industry to ensure this program is one that delivers for all of the UK. Using a network of radio range beacons installed by the United States military during the Second World War, the United Kingdom began using an airways system in 1950. “Green One” became Europe’s first airway, running from Woodley near Reading to the Welsh coast. It was followed by five more routes in the next year.

Ground Update

United States 

  • Outbound tender volumes dropped slightly (-2.7%) from the previous week but are still well ahead of last year (+22.4%). Seasonally adjusted freight activity continued to ease from its recent surge but remains quite strong at roughly double pre-pandemic levels. According to DAT, the van to truckload ratio averaged 7.5 in February up from 4.3 in January. The flatbed ratio jumped to 62 in February up from 48 last month. Tender rejects remain high at 26%. Spot market rates remain high at an average national rate per mile at $2.70, 11 cents above contracted rates and 83 cents higher than last year. However, on a week over week basis, they start to lesson after surging due to the impact of winter weather and networks being out of balance.
  • Many TL carriers are reporting double-digit increases in contracted rates, at around 15% over 2020. It continues to be a mixed bag for carriers as much of this is being directed to improved driver pay.
  • usually sees between 400,000 and 500,000 loads on a given day. For the past six months, they have averaged over 1 Million loads per day. DAT Freight and Analytics reported record volumes during February, with a peak during the 3rd week, which was the highest since June of 2018.
  • Intermodal containers and trailers—at 290,052—climbed 22.4% annually, trailing the weeks ending March 6 and February 27, at 282,641 and 271,248, respectively.
  • The Union Pacific Railroad has instituted a surcharge of $250 per container on the aggregate rate and began March 21. The surcharge covers all of California and applies to excess loads.
  • The ports of Southern California saw a continued increase in import activity over the previous year. February saw 771,000 TEU’s which was a 43% increase over February of 2020. This represents the most significant year-over-year increase for a single month in the 110-year history of the port. In normal, pre-pandemic times, February is usually a lighter month. This is the 7thconsecutive month of year over year increase.
  • The national average price for a gallon of diesel rose three-tenths of a cent to $3.194 a gallon, according to Energy Information Administration data released March 22. This is the 20th consecutive weekly increase, but it has slowed down over the last three weeks. Since November 2, a gallon of diesel has increased 82 cents.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway announced a merger to create the only railroad with the Mexico-United States – Canada network. This is subject to multiple regulatory reviews. The merged railroad will operate over 20,000 miles of the rail line and generate 8.7 billion of revenue.
  • Although the LTL industry finds itself in the midst of a “carriers” market, the higher top-line does not necessarily correlate to a direct improvement in the bottom line.  LTL carriers are struggling to keep up with demand and are facing higher labor costs for both drivers and dock workers.  Equipment availability and utilization are also suffering as their customer warehouses face labor shortages due to the pandemic.  Many are having to significantly increase their purchased transportation to move line haul (long haul) trailers, and absorb the higher costs of operating a network in peak conditions.
  • Many shippers are shifting a portion of their capacity planning to “dedicated” solutions.  Although there are broad interpretations to what falls under the dedicated classification, one general rule is that the commitment is contractual and covers the use of the equipment and driver for designated trips.  Often this is in the form of “all”, “round trip” or continuous miles. Truckload carriers are seeing this portion of their business grow at higher rates than general freight (contract and spot) and represent a larger percentage of their fleet than in past years.
  • Spot Market and Contract pricing remained elevated with the Dry Ban National Average rate per mile (rpm) @ $2.72.  Flatbed and Intermodal also rose.  Carriers continue to direct capacity towards the west coast (surging demand) causing scarcity in the upper Midwest.  Load to truck ratios remain higher than normal at 7.8/1, but that is a drop from recent weeks (11/1) as carriers recovered from storm activity. Tender volumes were flat week over week but remain well above this time in 2020 (up 46%). Those comparisons are expected to normalize as the surge in volumes experienced last year for emergency and replenishment of supplies count against this year. Tender rejects are still way above norm, at 27%. Spot market activity was 80% higher than the same week last year.
  • Intermodal containers and trailers—at 282,641, rose 21.5%, topping the week ending February 27, at 271,248, and the week ending February 20, at 206,262.
  • As reported by Freightwaves, for the 19th consecutive week, the average retail diesel price published by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration has risen. The latest price is $3.191, an increase of 4.8 cents per gallon from a week earlier. At 19 straight weeks, the benchmark price for fuel surcharges left behind the previous 15-week record for increases a month ago. It also has left behind all other prices since December 2018; that was the last time the weekly DOE/EIA average retail diesel price was as high as $3.19 a gallon. 
  • Dry van load post volumes increased by 15% week over week in the top 10 markets, as shippers struggled to move freight following the recent winter storms that disrupted freight networks. Fleets continue to deal with the aftermath of winter storms as capacity and demand shifted to those areas hardest hit. In addition to record-level spot market volumes, intermodal network disruptions pushed more freight into the spot markets as shippers sought to meet delivery deadlines with customers. Spot rates in the top 10 markets were up an average of $0.18/mile last week, with spot rates in the West Coast continuing to climb. Los Angeles and Ontario, CA, volumes were up 18% and 36% w/w respectively with spot rates up $0.25/mile in both markets to $2.72/mile and $2.78/mile respectively.  Unusually high first-quarter freight demand is denying shippers relief from a capacity crunch that already outstrips the capacity shortage of 2018, previously the tightest market on record for trucking. The crunch became much more noticeable in February when widespread winter storms and frigid weather literally froze trucks off the road.
  • Current outbound volumes are 59% higher than 2020 and 55% higher than 2019.  Outbound tender rejects increased to 27%, impacted by the recovery from the weather and represents an increase of over 400% from this time last year.  Yearly comparisons will soon become tougher given the 30% volume surge last March on the backs of consumer panic buying and hoarding of grocery and household staples. We are entering the seasonal second-gear freight markets find toward the end of Q1.  Warmer weather brings about elevated consumer demand and low inventory levels across manufacturing and retail will drive increased demand.
  • FreightWaves predicts consumers are likely to prioritize spending on durable goods and ecommerce in the first half of 2021 much like they did in the second half of 2020.  FreightWaves thinks that it will take significant time to balance out the supply – demand picture, given a host of issues restraining capacity.  The issues currently holding back capacity include a shortage of experienced drivers, a job growth boom in industries like ecommerce and parcels pulling away drivers, and bottlenecks at driver training schools and the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. 
  • The Ecommerce boom continues to have a significant, positive impact on the trucking industry.  Although many analysts believe it will have a bigger impact on Less Than Truckload (LTL) then Full Truckload (FTL), it has impacted both as well as intermodal, as overall the acceleration in on line purchasing in 2020 was unprecedented.  The reason for believing the impact will be greater on LTL is due to distribution and fulfillment centers getting closer to the consumer, resulting in smaller shipment size vs. FTL.  Intermodal is expected to gain share as the gap in cost (transportation and fuel) grows greater between truck and rail. 
  • Port congestion on both coasts (LA/LB and NY/NJ) is soaking up capacity and available drivers to move a backlog of containers.  It is impacting the spot markets as shippers pay higher prices to secure moves. Dry Van capacity for the entire east coast, Texas, Southern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest remain tight. Freight coming out those areas is difficult for carriers to cover, regardless of the fact they continue to point available capacity to those areas. Freight going into those areas are extremely attractive to most fleets.
  • Rail volumes increased 6.2% y/y this week, up from +1.4% and -17.6% the prior 2 weeks. Volumes increased another 5% sequentially and have now fully recovered from severe winter weather in mid-February, with absolute volumes at their highest point so far this year. From a commodity standpoint, intermodal volumes were very strong (+17% y/y).  Intermodal containers and trailers—at 1,015,995—increased 1.8%, or 18,184 units annually, in February. Cumulative February U.S. carload and intermodal originations, at 1,840,631, were off 4.4%, or 84,788 carloads and intermodal units annually.
  • The National Transportation Institute has found that four factors are interacting to cause driver pay to change. They include Driver Turnover, Driver Supply, Capacity Demand, and Freight Rates.  Driver turnover is up significantly across the industry, the driver pool continues to shrink, demand continues to outstrip supply and both spot and contracted rates continue to climb.  Fleets are reacting accordingly and raising driver pay. 
  • North American Class 8 orders hit 43,800 in February, up 212% compared with a year earlier, ACT Research reported, citing truck makers’ preliminary data. A year ago, Class 8 orders were 14,040, according to ACT. The orders came as the U.S. economy is strong in areas key to truck fleets’ profitability, ACT President Kenny Vieth said. “Consumer spending on goods, a red-hot housing market, a reaccelerating manufacturing sector, and pent-up inventories combine to provide very good visibility to near- to mid-term freight trends,” he said. “Contract freight rates are at record levels, as are spot rates.
  • The price of Diesel increased for the 18th consecutive week.  The two-week increase is the most since September 2017.  Per the Department of Energy, the price for a gallon of diesel is now at $3.14, its highest since May of 2019.  Up 2% last week after the previous two weeks went up a total of 19.6 cents.
  • The country continues to recover from the impact of winter weather two weeks ago.  In addition to networks being out of balance and out of position, many manufacturing locations had production disruptions that are causing shifts in demand for capacity.  The recovery is causing more pressure on volume than the weather did.  Port Congestion is now causing many retailers to report inventory/stocking issues and close to 60 ships remained at anchor off the West Coast.  Intermodal networks continue to struggle with service performance as they manage through this recovery.  Preliminary data for January indicates that retail inventories were the leanest ever relative to sales, creating pressure for replenishment. Meanwhile, supply chain shortages likely led to more specially arranged shipments of components and supplies.
  • Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) was up 20% last week and when compared to 2020 up 59%.  Volumes out of Texas and Oklahoma surged over 60%.  Housing Construction and Manufacturing / Industrial drove the increase.  Outbound Tender rejects remained around 26% and saw spot pricing increase significantly in both Dry Van and Flatbed.  Of the 11 major markets identified by Freight Waves, Flatbed volumes rose in all 11 representing a significant increase in demand for open deck equipment.  Load postings in the system jumped nearly 25% during the week ended February 26 (week 8) to set a third straight weekly record. The increase in truck postings slightly outpaced load growth, so the ratio of loads to trucks eased slightly from the prior week’s record.
  • The Logistics Management Index which tracks the number of logistics-related costs, transportation prices, warehousing prices, and inventory costs hit its highest level in more than two years. Transportation costs lead the way with tight capacity and increasing demand driving the growth in rates.  They note that transportation capacity has dropped for the ninth straight month.  This contraction was accelerated in February and seen across all modes. Trucking continues to suffer from a driver shortage due in large part to fewer driver school graduates and drivers impacted by the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse not taking the steps to reactivate. 
  • The price of diesel continued to skyrocket, surging 9.9 cents to $3.072 a gallon, according to data released by the Energy Information Administration on March 1. The increase marked the second consecutive increase above 9 cents, following a 9.7-cent rise. Before Feb. 22, the last gain of at least 9 cents came Sept. 23, 2019. The rise is the steepest since a 15.3-cent spike on Sept. 4, 2017. Diesel topped $3 a gallon for the first time since Jan. 27, 2020. The price of trucking’s main fuel has increased for 17 consecutive weeks.

Regional updates


United Kingdom 

  • 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.


  • Up-swinging demand for capacities. China demand for capacities is up as well as the rates into PVG. 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. 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!


  • 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.
  • Equipment problems have eased but still space restraints on both EB and WB export lanes. LATAM rates increased after many years. Heavy cargo not being loaded onto vessel. Import from FE not takings bookings locally, customers looking for space (the rate hikes have been accepted on the market).

Netherlands & Belgium 

  • Space capacity constraints still continues. Booking confirmation are subject to airline approval; booking required well in advance. Pricing flattening however still on high levels. Flight schedule subject to change without further notice and transit delays.
  • 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
    • Primary Screening 0.15 / Kg Min 20.00
    • Secondary Screening 0.25 / Kg Min 115.00 (inclusive of Primary Screening)
      • Clients are responsible for covering these charges.  
  • 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.

Saudi Arabia

Border clearance: Qatar embargo is somewhat lifted however operation has not fully commenced. Salwa custom yet to be resumed. Air operation is improving but the ocean is the same with no change.    

  • AF Booking confirmation are subject to airline’s approval. Flight schedule subject to change without prior notice and transit delays.  
  • Space constraints continues with many challenges. Most of the carriers are implementing new tariff per cntr (inspection charges @ depo) There is increase on THC by Mawani by 8-10% on STD + 25% on DG.

United Arab Emirates

Qatar embargo is lifted and operations have resumed for air and ocean. 

  • Flight schedule subject to change without further notice and transit delays.  Bookings are available basis of ADHOC rates. Due to movement of Vaccines all shipments are delayed either at load port or at transshipment hubs. Shipments to Qatar are accepted provided consignee has import permit from Qatar Ministry of Business and Trade.  This is still a debate which must be concluded very soon. 
  • Import vessels are delayed at the transshipment ports. Heavy surcharges are getting implemented from every carrier. Advance booking is a must to block space.     Operations at Jebel Ali port is as usual. Qatar sailings have commenced but acceptance of containers on board the vessel is subject to consignee obtaining mandatory approval from Qatar Ministry of Business & Trade for containers originating from following origins -  UAE, KSA, BAH & EGY.
  • Qatar borders are still not functional and rest of the GCC destinations movements are regular. Due to COVID restrictions in the region, it is advised to check, prior movement of the freight.

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
  • 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.

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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