Freight Market Update: May 3, 2023

Trends to Watch

  • [Ocean – TPEB] Effective capacity still is at an oversupply as carriers announce more blank sailings and try to reign in further rate drops. Space remains wide open and rates have dropped to pre-pandemic levels.
  • [Ocean – TAWB] Rates continue their downward trend as demand is not recovering and capacity remains open, expect this trend to continue for all Q2 2023 and beyond. Equipment is now widely available in all major European ports.
  • [Ocean – LATAM] Capacity has opened up due to softer demand and ocean carriers deploying new services or adding additional capacity to existing service rotations. This is putting pressure on rates as supply exceeds demand, we expect the situation to remain beyond Q2.
  • [Air – Asia] The market is stabilizing and rates will remain higher than Q1 while demand has recovered and remains relatively stable. Some freighter capacity is being retired, specifically on Transpacific. An increase in passenger capacity as summer approaches should keep the overall capacity (freighter + passenger) relatively stable and maintain a healthy supply demand balance.
  • [Trucking – N. America] The port of Houston discontinued Saturday operations at Bayport + Barbours as of Apr 29, 2023. The majority of US and Canadian ports and rail ramps are fluid, and not experiencing any significant delays—Gulf ports are slightly congested but truck power is available nationwide.​​​​
Expert Voices
Container throughput at Laredo on the U.S. – Mexico border reached a new monthly high in March, jumping by more than 30,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from February to reach nearly 235,000. To date, the evidence for near-shoring has been murky. Here we look at how it is perhaps coming into clearer view.

After Long Beach and Newark, the third busiest port in the United States in March is not a ‘port,’ or at least not the kind with waves lapping against docks. It is landlocked, more than one hundred miles from the sea and the majority of ‘shipments’ pass through on the back of semis and atop long, winding trains without being offloaded.

It is Laredo, Texas, or Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, depending on which side of the border you sit on. And it is one of the major indicators suggesting a potential shift in U.S. trade flows.

The chart below compares monthly loaded TEUs through Laredo against the 2019 pre-pandemic average of around 165,000 per month (the straight dotted blue line). Recall that in 2019, U.S. real imports were trending downwards and that after the initial drop caused by the onset of the pandemic, we then started seeing considerable growth.

Turning back to Laredo, with the exception of a likely-seasonal drop in the May of 2022, volumes have remained well-above that average for the past twelve months, culminating in the March spike, which represented a 14.8% month-on-month increase and 17.5% increase year-on-year. By contrast, total seaborne TEUs into the U.S. were only up 6.6% month-on-month and still 24.9% lower than March 2022.

What makes that spike – and the volumes in the months preceding it – all the more intriguing is that it came at a time when there was an apparent disconnect between tumultuous U.S. seaborne imports, resilient consumer spending and wholesale and retail inventory levels.

The rise in activity at Laredo may provide one piece of the puzzle. It could turn out to be just a temporary surge, however, and volumes will eventually settle back at historical levels. Indeed, if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that seeming trends can be anything but.

This Week In News
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The global supply chain may be out from under the bulk of disruptions brought on by the COVID pandemic, but that doesn’t mean everything can, or should, return to ‘normal.’ The companies that take this time to put into action the lessons they learned over the last three years are the ones setting themselves up for long-term success. Supply chain resiliency, diversification (of suppliers, partners, routes, etc.), and sustainability are the key focus areas shippers should be looking to sort out through the back half of 2023.

Greywing’s New SeaGPT Solves Email Overwhelm for Maritime Crew Managers

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