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Market Outlook

We have already seen the first casualty for 2023 with Focus Container Line going into liquidation, ceasing trading between Australia and New Zealand. 

We are of the opinion this may not be the last shipping line to fall prey to these difficult market conditions. We have also seen how the market can change very quickly when shipping lines can no longer sustain low freight rates, they try to influence the disparity between supply and demand by controlling their capacity via blank sailings / sliding vessels / omitting ports and re-engineering their service loops. 

This does not help our valued clients as it means fewer port calls and sailings which can burden supply chains with delays in what has now become a shift back to just-in-time purchasing instead of the just-in-case model adopted in 2022. 

Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs) are being forced by some carriers to engage in long term contracts with penalty clauses in exchange for committed volumes to sure up their vessel space utilisation. 

This means that once the contract is active, an agreed allocation is set they will charge for any unused slot this is also known as “dead freight” and is being adopted by some carriers. 

Landside Logistics 

With Easter in a little over three weeks it’s an important reminder how this important holiday can impact heavily on terminals, trucking companies, depots, warehouses, and other key service providers. We often find that the Easter period has a more impact on local logistics than Christmas and New Year. 

Additional planning is the key in ensuring limited exposure to storage, back to yard charges and detention fees. Whilst some of these costs may be unavoidable, small changes to your business will assist you over this holiday period. 

This may include organizing deliveries as quickly as possible after the break to ensure no further charges apply to the container and or investing in additional resources to assist the backlog of cargo moving in and out of your business over this long weekend. 

Airfreight Terminal Fee Increases 

Please note effective the 1st of May, the handling fees for airfreight will increase because of the current market (increase to wages and salaries along with investing in infrastructure).

The fees are expected to increase by 10% for the airfreight terminal charges. 

Airfreight Update

After a slow uptick in demand after the Chinese New Year, increasing demand is expected over the next few weeks. Demand has been on the increase as manufacturing resumes. 

There is sufficient capacity to support the soft demand and rates continue to remain competitive in the market.

Travel restrictions for passengers in China have been mostly scrapped and the demand will continue to increase gradually over the coming months, leading to new flights with larger capacity. 

North America
United States export capacity is generally open, and rates continue their downward trend. Expect additional capacity entering the market in the coming months to support increased travel demand.

Global Freight Update 

The demand for ocean freight on most trade lanes have continued to decline or remain stable, with freight rates following the same pattern. 

Shipping lines continue to adjust schedules and incorporate void sailings to control the supply. They are also starting to utilise methods to slow down vessels or taking longer routes via the Cape of Good Hope on the backhaul legs of east-west services. This will impact transit-sensitive commodities. 

Congestion issues is almost completely gone as space options and rate levels have dropped in favour of shippers.

However, there is still a need for some flexibility as blank sailings and service adjustments continue to impact transit times. 


The Asia-Europe trade lane utilization has been relatively stable although on a downward trend. However, it is not substantial enough to maintain the current rate levels. Meanwhile, carriers are wary of the introduction of new ultra large container ships into the Asia-Europe trade in the coming months. 

Capacity utilization on the trans-Pacific trade lane remains below 85% on most services to all U.S. and Canadian coasts. Rates will be on a continued downward trend to levels that are mostly unsustainable for steamship lines. The Asia-Latin America (LATAM) trade lane demand is stable although trending downwards. 

Shipping lines continue for their vessels to be on slow steam, mostly on the backhaul route, saving on fuel and absorbing capacity. 


Whilst the energy crisis did not have a considerable impact to the winter demand as first forecasted, overcapacity continues to impact this region. Shipping lines have implemented service charges to optimise their coverage, differentiate services, and fill up ships with the right ports of call. 

North America 

Imports remain soft year-over-year due to inflation and normalizing demand from the largest importers, including retail, furniture, electronics, and home improvement, representing over 50% of U.S. imports. 

However, the year to year comparisons will continue to show a dramatic drop since demand remained at an all time high in the first half of 2022. For reference, based on arrival into the U.S., February 2023 volumes were 0.3% lower than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. 

U.S. congestion overall has seen a considerable improvement, with only a little bottleneck at some inland rail depots. If demand remains soft and port negotiations do not trigger major stoppages, congestion should stay at bay. 


The Trans-Tasman market continues to be reliable with space as further services are opening gradually. 

U.S. to Oceania 
The market continues to soften, and rates are expected to keep declining as carriers compete for market share. Space continues to be tight on the U.S. East Coast but easing on the U.S. West Coast. 

Traditionally the peak season on the U.S. – Oceania trade lane winds down towards the end of the 1st Quarter which will alleviate space issues. Port calls to New Zealand for exports from the U.S. West Coast continue on a fortnightly basis, and transshipment service options are increasing. 

The Europe export market remains stable, with space and equipment readily available for dry cargo. Rates are still gradually being reduced by all carriers as supply still outweighs demand. 

Northeast Asia to Oceania continues to be in flux. Carriers are attempting to increase rates, but demand is not at a level to sustain any increases. 

Southeast Asia is in a steady decline due to weakened demand. Shipping lines are amending services, such as rationalizing port calls, to limit space and increase demand. Singapore and Malaysia lines are operating normally without significant delays. 

South Asia, Middle East, and Africa 

Demand out of these regions continue to be soft. India and Bangladesh are steady, however much lower in comparison to last year. Pakistan demand has decreased a considerable amount.

Shipping lines are implementing changes to their services in this area of the world. 

We will continue to evaluate all market options and work with you to provide individual solutions for your business. 

For more details on any of these articles please contact your Henning Harders Key Account Manager. 

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