Market Update | May 2021

May 26, 2021

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

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. Follow this link for the latest on Brexit.

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

Read here, May 14, 2021

Latest Ocean Update

US Export Ocean Market

  • The US export market has been considerably affected by the high demand for US imports from Asia.
  • Due to the exorbitantly high rates commanded on the head haul trade, US exports are being replaced with empty containers to provide a quicker turnaround of container availability at Asia origin.  Discharged containers in Asia do not require consignee payment and pickup.  The typical free time considerations before containers are returned to the Asia terminal do not occur if empty containers discharged from the US export trade are instantly available for imports back to North America.
  • The congestion in the LA terminals has been caused by COVID-19, labor shortage at the terminal, truckers, warehouses, fewer working hours, and full capacity of terminal space.
  • To make up for lost time from delayed transit times, ocean carriers are also loading fewer FCL export containers at each port before going to the next port of call.  Also, the physical container shortage does not allow for bookings to be given as easily as before.

US Export Rate Fluctuation

  • Typically, ocean carriers announce GRIs and mitigate them based on demand and feedback from their clients.
  • In the past 2 months, multiple ocean carriers have implemented multiple GRIs to take advantage of the increased demand.

US Export Ocean Carrier Recent Action Plan

  • The main issue now is space and equipment availability. Ocean carriers are declining and canceling bookings to protect their highest paying and most consistent cargo.
  • Ocean carriers have been profit-taking since Q3 2020. They will continue to do so until more capacity comes into the market with larger vessels and more containers in the entire supply chain network. (Figure 1- Source: Drewery Maritime Research).
  • Carriers are ordering more ships, and the expectation is to have them ready in 2-3 years. Owners are risking paying top dollar for assets that will potentially end the container upcycle. (Figure 2- Source: Drewery Maritime Research).
  • Additional GRI, surcharges, and surcharge adjustments are expected to be announced by ocean carriers. Those surcharges are including but not limited to the below:
    • Equipment/container imbalance surcharge
    • Trade imbalance surcharge
    • Congestion surcharge
    • Bunker surcharge
    • Emergency fuel surcharge
  • Demand planning will also be a key component to a successful relationship.  Volume forecasts 4-6 weeks in advance to the given destinations will allow ocean carriers to plan for equipment and space allocation.  Projections and changes advised with ample lead time will enhance the carrier's trust with this important client.

Estimated carrier industry ebit profit-loss and ebit margins

Estimated newbuild contracting since 1q20

Ocean Port Status 

  • Oakland: Vessel wait time is 3 days.  Over 20 container ships are waiting to discharge.
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach:
    • The vessel wait time is 3+ days. Nearly 20 container ships are waiting to discharge, with 15 container ships being processed at berth.
    • IPI On Dock Rail delayed 7+ days
    • Major Chassis shortages, delaying MLB/Doors, average LALB MLB dwell is 5+ 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 2-3 days. 
  • Montreal: Canadian government ended the port strike. Work resumed on Sunday but returning to full operations will take several days. Expect delays for vessel loading and discharge.

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

Access updated air freight information by region and country.

Latest Ocean Update

Additional Air Freight Updates

  • China Airlines - China Airlines has warned that around 10% of its cargo capacity will be affected as its pilots are required to quarantine for 14 days. The quarantine requirements were introduced by Taiwan earlier in the week in response to an outbreak on the island linked to the airline’s pilots and a hotel where they stayed. China Airlines plans to organize aircrews into separate groups for rolling 14-day home quarantines and will not, therefore, ground all flights, but there will be some effect. Preliminary projections indicate that more than 10% of the airline’s cargo carrying capacity will be hit. “Priority will be given to cargo routes to ensure the continuity of the industries,” the airline said in a statement. “The short-term reduction in Taiwan’s import/export capacity will have an effect on cargo transport times.”
  • Cathay Pacific - cargo capacity was only gradually recovering in April after the relaxation of stricter crew quarantine rules in the middle of the month. The Hong Kong-based airline in April saw its cargo capacity in cargo tonne-km terms drop by 36.6% compared with February levels as a result of stricter quarantine measures being introduced. These rules were relaxed in mid-April for the vaccinated crew, but capacity only gradually came back online. The April figure was also higher than the 25% drop-off in capacity recorded by the carrier in March. Cathay Pacific group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald Lam explained: “While we welcomed the easing of quarantine restrictions for cargo aircrew in Hong Kong in mid-April, the positive impact of the relaxation was not immediately realized due to crew rostering lead time and our overall capacity last month remained significantly affected. “The number of freighter and cargo-only passenger flights that we operated was lower than at any point since the Covid-19 pandemic began, limiting our ability to provide more lift to what was a reasonably buoyant cargo market, particularly on long-haul routings. This reduction in capacity together with the firm market led to a high load factor of 83%.”He added: “We expect our May cargo schedule to gradually recover as more of our crew are fully vaccinated. Lam said that currently 80% of pilots and over 40% of cabin crew in Hong Kong have either booked or received their vaccination. Cathay Pacific’s air cargo volumes for the month were 13.6% down year on year. Over the first four months, tonnages are 26.7% down on a year earlier.
  • Blue Dart - Amid a worsening Covid-crisis in India, vital medical supplies and e-commerce cargo are driving volume growth at domestic express airline Blue Dart Aviation.MD Tulsi Mirchandaney told The Loadstar: “We’ve seen optimal utilization of our Boeing 757-200 fleet on scheduled and charter operations, with uptake by pharmaceutical and medical supplies, as well as e-commerce demand.” Indeed, in its Q4 results the firm achieved 33% year-on-year revenue growth and DHL-owned parent Blue Dart Express said more e-commerce shipments had been sent by air.
  • Tel Aviv - Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV) is rerouted until further notice, Israeli airport authorities announced on May 13, 2021. Planes will be diverted to Ramon Airport (ETM) in Eilat, southern Israel. The decision only affects flights landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Planes landing in Eilat will then ferry to Tel Aviv to take on new passengers. This decision aims at thinning out the number of planes filled with passengers on Ben-Gurion’s apron in order to lower the chances that a rocket could hit an aircraft. Private planes and freighters are still allowed to land. On May 12, 2021, US carriers all decided to suspend flights to and from Israel over the increasing violence. United Airlines and American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) said flights would resume on May 25, 2021, while Delta Air Lines did not give a date for service resumption. Israel’s national carrier El Al will maintain flights but announced that all passengers would be allowed to change tickets booked on flights before May 19, 2021, without a fee.Since the eruption of tensions between Hamas and Israel on May 10, 2021, nearly 1,500 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli Air Force carrying out retaliatory airstrikes. On May 11, 2021, Israeli authorities temporarily suspended all air traffic to or from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport. In three days, the clash made 7 victims on the Israeli side, and 67 dead in the Gaza Strip.
  • London Heathrow Airport - (LHR- In April 2021, air traffic in London Heathrow Airport (LHR) remained 92.1% lower than before the pandemic, the company outlined in a statement on May 11, 2021. The decline is equal to 6.2 million passengers per month. During the month, 116,000 metric tonnes of cargo traveled through Heathrow, which is a12% decline when compared to 132,000 in April 2019. Starting from May 17, travelers from 12 countries and territories in the green list will be allowed to enter the UK. While they will be asked to register and take two COVID-19 tests, they will not be asked to quarantine unless the test result is positive. While London Heathrow “welcomes” the upcoming change of rules, it would like to see the United States added to the green list. Currently, the US is under the “amber list” meaning that passengers arriving from the country must undergo a 10-day quarantine.
  • Air India - Plan to vaccinate its entire staff by the end of May 2021 seems to hang on a threat. The flag carrier of India canceled the crew vaccination process blaming the shortage of supply. Initially, Air India planned to vaccinate the flight crew and cabin crew members against the COVID-19 virus by holding vaccination camps at Delhi Airport (DEL) on May 11 or May 13, 2021. But on late May 10, 2021, the airline reportedly informed their staff that teh plan was postponed. The proposed COVID vaccination camp at GSD Complex, Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) on May 11 and May 13 stand canceled because government authorities have expressed inability to hold these camps due to non-availability of vaccines,“ the airline wrote the note seen by local media. According to the initial plan,  up to 10,000 airline employees should have been vaccinated by the end of May 2021. But it now seems that the company might miss its self-imposed deadline as it has not even set a new date for vaccination. “Fresh dates will be notified once we get re-confirmation from government authorities,“ Air India added. The government of India has not put the airline employees on a vaccination priority list despite trade unions' attempts to urge otherwise.  In early May of 2021, the Federation of Indian Pilots, which represents up to 5,000 commercial flight crew, sent a letter to the government, where it counted that almost 1,200 dozes of the vaccine were needed to protect commercial pilots. 
  • United - On May 17, 2021, United Airlines announced it would add more than 400 flights to its July 2021 schedule. The move comes, as the US airline sees growing demand in domestic as well as international air travel.In a statement, United Airlines reported that it would operate 80% of its US schedule compared to July 2019. As summer season approaches, the carrier’s ticket sales for summer travel went up 214% compared to 2020 levels. United is adding new routes and increasing its domestic network by 17% compared to its June 2021 schedule. In the United States, the air carrier will add new routes to Bozeman, Montana; Orange County, California; Raleigh, North Carolina and Yellowstone/Cody, Wyoming. As for international routes, United Airlines plans to increase weekly operations from New York to Croatia and Greece. "As we start to see a strong desire from our customers to travel internationally to re-opened countries, we are excited to move up service and add a fourth weekly flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia," said Patrick Quayle, vice president of international network and alliances at United. "And with the additional seats we're adding to Athens, Greece, we continue to make creative adjustments to match our service with customer trends."
  • IATA - The IATA Director-General calls high COVID-19 testing fees an “economic emergency” and a threat to a smooth travel recovery. Coupled with the hike in COVID-adjusted airfare prices, concerns have been raised over the increased detection of passengers presenting fraudulent PCR testing results. Travelers explore means to bypass the rules Travellers finding new methods to circumvent travel restrictions is not an uncommon topic under the COVID-affect travel skies of 2021. From the grounding of flights in March 2020 to the introduction of vaccines in late 2020, the detection of travel loopholes and fraudulent COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test certificates has risen significantly. However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warns that the combination of elusive transit travel and malicious test certificates, together with high COVID-19 testing fees, poses a significant threat to the reinstitution of international travel. According to a statement released on May 4, 2021, IATA reports that the average minimum and average maximum testing costs range from $90 to $208.The rise of the second and third waves of COVID-19 has increased the incorporation and requirement of negative coronavirus test results as a prerequisite for travel and entry into countries such as France, Italy, Portugal, The Maldives, Spain, Turkey, and Cyprus. However, the lack of access to public options with affordable testing facilities has adversely given rise to a secondary market that offers forged physical test certificates to passengers. A Europol report released in February 2021 alerted EU member states of fraudulent networks producing and selling fake COVID-19 test certificates. According to the report, fraudsters operating under this criminal activity have been apprehended in Paris, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In October 2020, the United Kingdom recorded a resurgence of fake certificates sold on the black market. Similar cases were recorded outside Europe too. In Uganda, 23 people were arrested at Entebbe Airport for boarding a plane with forged COVID-19 test documents. Nigeria had an instance in which 40% of passengers on a single flight tested positive for COVID-19, despite presenting negative results prior to boarding. Read More: Travelers faking COVID-19 test results to fly.
  • Hong Kong - Singapore-n May 4, 2021, Singapore announced plans to impose tighter travel restrictions with 21-day quarantine measures after the spike in local COVID-19 cases. The move prompted questions with regards to the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, signaling that travel conditions between both cities might change. During the COVID-19 multi-ministry press conference on May 4, 2021, Minister of Education Lawrence Wong responded to a reporter’s question with regards to the Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor by saying that both cities remained in contact. However, the government would assess if changes on quarantine-free travel with Hong Kong were needed. "We will monitor the situation, and we will review and assess whether or not there will be any changes and give updates in due course," Wong said. On April 26, 2021, Hong Kong and Singapore agreed on the launch date for the long-awaited air travel bubble. The quarantine-free travel between Asia’s two business and financial hubs is set to begin on May 26, 2021. This is the second attempt to launch the bubble, after the initial attempt on November 22, 2020, which came to no avail.
  • UAE - The United Arab Emirates extended the suspension of entry for travelers from India “on all flights on national and foreign carriers, as well as for transit passengers coming from India, with the exception of transit flights traveling to the UAE and bound for India,” the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced. Travelers who were in India in the 14-day period prior to arrival in the UAE are also banned from entering the country. “Flights between the two countries will continue to allow the transport of passengers from the UAE to India and the transfer of exempted groups from India to the UAE who have applied for exemption,” the statement said. The decision is motivated by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases affecting India. As of May 3, 2021, India recorded 357,316 new cases of the COVID-19 virus, with a total caseload crossing 20 million infected locals, while the death rate rose by more than 3,449 casualties to a total of 222,408. The Ministry did not specify an end date for the ban, initially announced on April 22, 2021.
  • Lufthansa - After reporting a net loss of more than €1 billion in Q1, 2021, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) decided to eliminate 10,000 jobs starting from early 2022. While presenting Lufthansa’s (LHAB) (LHA) quarterly results, Chief Financial Officer Remco Steenbergen confirmed that the airline was "preparing for layoffs" and intended to "make comparable savings in staffing costs ."Over the past 12 months, the airline has already cut 24,000 full-time jobs, as outlined in its latest financial update. The additional job cuts will reduce the airline’s total number of staff to 60,000 employees ‒ meaning that the air carrier will have cut 43% of its pre-pandemic workforce. In October 2020, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) warned that 30,000 jobs were under threat as it was scaling down its winter schedule to levels not seen since the 1970s as the demand for air travel collapsed due to the ongoing pandemic. Later, in December 2020, the airline announced that it expected larger job cuts resulting in massive redundancies of 50,000 employees. During the first three months of 2021, Lufthansa’s (LHAB) (LHA) operating profit fell to €4 billion in comparison to €8.2 billion for the same period in 2020. While Germany’s flag carrier still burns up to €235 million per month, its quarterly net loss halved from €2.1 billion in Q1 2020 to more than €1 billion in Q1 2021. Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) expects that a stricter cost-cutting strategy would help it to reduce the monthly cash burn to €200 million per month. The airline plans to operate around 40% of its pre-COVID capacity in Q2 2021.
  • China Airlines - On May 10, 2021, Taiwan’s Health Minister announced that it would impose 14-day quarantine measures on all pilots of its largest air carrier China Airlines. The move came amid a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases linked to an airport hotel. Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-Chung said that the only way to stop the COVID-19 transmission at China Airlines was to impose a 14-day self-isolation mandate to all pilots who reside in Taiwan. Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) also ordered all China Airlines pilots working overseas to fly back to Taiwan to undergo a 14-day quarantine. The pilots would be allowed to finish 14-day self-isolation after getting a negative COVID-19 test. This will have a big impact on China Airlines, on its passenger and freighter flights, and on the crew too. But for the safety of the whole community, we cannot but make this decision," Chen said, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported. The COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan was linked to the airport hotel where China Airlines pilots have been staying. There have been 35 COVID-19 cases confirmed and linked to the outbreak since April 29, 2021.  In response to the quarantine measures, China Airlines announced it would divide its aircrew members into groups and successively arrange for the 14-day quarantine phase. The airline will prioritize cargo operations. However, decreased numbers of available cockpit crew would “affect the delivery time of goods,” the airline warned. “China Airlines will make every effort to deploy available manpower,” read the statement. “At present, both passenger and cargo flights are still being adjusted. "To this day, Taiwan's total case numbers remain low compared with those of some other parts of the world, with only 1,119 cases and 12 deaths from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ground Update

United States

  • Large shippers are experiencing strong demand with shipments up 15%-20% year over year despite lapping double-digit growth a year ago. Truckload tender acceptance rates improved 3%-4% in recent weeks to 91%-93%, but they are expecting Truckload capacity to tighten again as produce and beverage season ramp ahead of the Memorial Day holiday. From a pricing standpoint, Truckload spot rates have declined 5%-7% from recent peaks, but they are still paying 20% premiums vs. their contractual rates, although this is down from the 30%+ premiums he was paying this winter. A particular client’s contractual Truckload rates increased another 7%-9% year over year this Spring in his 2021 annual network RFP, and including the impact of higher spot rates, their Truckload spend is up double-digits year over year.
  • Several Truckload and LTL carriers talked about the current state of domestic ground transportation and also the impact of the Colonial Pipeline shut down this week, they commented that the spike in gasoline and diesel prices have only increased modestly so far, and their fuel surcharge mechanisms will cover the higher costs in coming weeks. From an LTL standpoint, carriers have been purchasing diesel at truck stops instead of refueling at their bulk fuel tanks at their service centers. So, they’re reserving their bulk fuel supplies in case diesel supplies get tighter. They also deploy these tactics during weather events and natural disasters, which results in higher-than-normal fuel costs while the issue persists. Meanwhile, the Truckload guys generally encouraged drivers to refuel before entering the Southeast and MidAtlantic, since they predominately purchase fuel at retail truck stops. Some carriers noted challenges in their Dedicated operations in impacted regions. Finally, as a group they all mentioned their efforts to get clients, that have marginally challenged business, to take increases now before capacity normalizes.
  • When we look at total spending on freight in April, it rose 45% year over year and 2% month over a month according to Cass (see below). This appears to be driven by 28% higher volume and 13% price (both core and fuel) and potentially mix. April was the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year increase (after 14  consecutive months of declines). Price inflation vs prior year appears to be led by Domestic Truckload, but we are seeing price inflation in every mode (parcel, LTL, rail, airfreight/ocean).

cass freight index expenditures

  • The National Retail Federation again raised its outlook for retail container imports to key U.S. ports. The group expects first-half 2021 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to increase 33.9% year-over-year to 12.7 million. The group’s prior forecast called for a 26.9% increase; 23.3% was the forecast before that.  TEUs hit a new monthly record in March, rising 64.9% year-over-year to 2.27 million. The previous monthly record was 2.21 million TEUs, which was set in October. March volumes increased 21.2% from February, which was the strongest February recorded since the NRF began tracking the data in 2002.

port of long beach status

  • Class 8 Truck Net Orders - April industry heavy truck orders increased 717% year over year to 34k units, up compared to March’s 426% year over year increase as we see  significantly easier comparisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Medium duty orders decreased sequentially to 27.3k in April vs.  32.1k in March, but increased 224% year over year.

class 8 truck net orders

  • Expectations around future freight flows continue to grow with each passing week. New records are being posted with no sign of a falloff on the horizon.  Stimulus payments are spurring along already robust consumer spending while the need to replenish inventories lingers. The combination appears likely to keep the upside of the freight cycle on track even as the year-over-year comparisons become more formidable in the back half of the year.
  • Truckload Spot Market Demand Index - Truckload spot market demand rose in April as shippers avoid contract discussions on hopes of moderating prices from current  levels. Spot market demand during the first week of May is +466% versus one year ago as we cross easier comparisons due to  COVID. Spot market capacity has come down since April-20 and is now down 34% year over year.

tl spot freight vs tl spot capacity index

  • Spot Market Pricing (DAT)
    • Dry Van National Average RPM @ $2.70 (down $0.01 from prior week)
      • $0.01 behind current contract rates
      • $1.21 ahead of May-2020 spot rates
    • Flatbed National Average RPM @ $3.11 (up $0.02 from prior week)
      • $0.11 ahead of current contract rates
      • $0.61 ahead of May-2020 spot rates
    • Intermodal National Average RPM @ $1.66 (down $0.01 from prior week)
      • $0.35 ahead of May-2020 spot rates
  • Diesel costs continue to rise, last week ticking up to $3.186 per gallon, up another 1% week over week, up 2% month over month, and now up 18% year to date and now up to a 33% increase year over year.  Some of this is due to the Colonial Pipeline shut down but anticipated to continue through the summer driving season even with the pipeline coming back online.

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's 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.


  • Container space out of China is critical into Germany, also rail and truck capacities are low! Also, vessels out of Germany into China and the US are currently overbooked, current space bookable is 4 weeks. Rate level at +USD 12.000,00/40’ 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.


  • Rail Service from China to Germany is still a good alternative but is going to get congested as well because of the high demand.

Netherlands & Belgium


  • Space capacity is becoming very tight again, an increase in costs.
  • The booking confirmation is 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 in additional fees implemented by carriers such as the Equipment Imbalance fee.
  • Rates Far East – EU at all record elevated 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 long-term 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)

United Arab Emirates


  • CMA CGM / CEVA operated their first flight from Europe to Dubai.  They have a scheduled call, twice a week from DWC to Europe and the US. The frequency would be every Wednesday and Saturday and their agent is the ECS group in Dubai.
  • Flight schedule subject to change without further notice and transit delays continue.
  • Rates are still high resulting in a tough situation to compete or pay a high fare to book confirmed space.
  • Due to the movement of Vaccines, all shipments are delayed either at load port or at transshipment hubs.


  • Expect Transshipment delays via Singapore.
  • Rates are still high, and this would continue for a longer time.
  • As per industry updates, rates would be high for the rest of the year, and it may continue until the end of 2022.
  • Advance bookings are a must.
  • Operations at Jebel Ali port are as usual.


  • Qatar's border is still closed and not operational.
  • The rest of GCC cargo movements are regular.

Request a Quote

Let one of our client advocates build a solution that fits your logistics needs.

+1 888-870-2726