Many of the largest freighter operators experiencing productivity impact and less ‘surge’ capacity could be available for the peak season, according to Flexport.
Air crew testing protocols in Hong Kong continue to create turmoil for US and other foreign carriers as more and more pilots refuse trips into one of Asia’s leading air freight gateways, US forwarder Flexport reports in its latest weekly update on the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains.
“This is beginning to have a quite serious productivity impact on many of the largest freighter operators and could mean there will be less surge capacity available for the peak season. To date, Fedex and UPS pilots have been most vocal about their opposition to the new rules,” it said.
The market out of Asia continues to have “a decent amount of volatility” with South China (Hong Kong) the most impacted. Overall rates are rising across Asia on both the Trans-Pacific East Bound (TPEB) and Far East West Bound (FEWB) trade lanes, Flexport noted.
“The capacity situation has been especially acute in Taipei (TPE) where a 20-25% general rate increase is being implemented this week by most carriers. The spread between TPE and Mainland China is now approaching US$2 per kilo.
Passenger freighters or “preighters” are expected to make a strong return this peak season given strong demand projections and a persistent shortage of capacity.”
Turning to Europe, according to Flexport, the Trans-Atlantic West Bound (TAWB) market “remains relatively stable with small increases in demand and supply keeping the market in decent equilibrium. Europe is in the middle of its peak vacation season so expect the market to remain quiet until early September when production will once again ramp up to meet the peak season demand.
The Far East West Bound (FEWB) Asia-Europe route “remains volatile and driven by various factors (aircraft maintenance, holiday-season in theEU etc.) and we see changing demand and unstable rates week over week. The overall trend has rates rising in this trade lane.
Market ‘lacks direction’
Meanwhile, data from the latest weekly market update (issued on 10 August) from Freight Investor Services (FIS) shows a decline in rates on the majority of the main East-West trade lanes for air cargo, in contrast to the largely upward trend of recent weeks.
China-US prices were down 2.2% (US$0.12) in the previous seven days to US$5.34 per kilo while on the specific ex-Shanghai route to the US, prices fell by 2.0% (US$0.11) to US$ 5.40per kilo. Hong Kong-US decreased 2.4% (US$0.13) to $5.27 per kilo.
China-Europe prices rose almost 0.6% (US$0.02) to US$3.53 per kilo but Shanghai-Europe rates were down by close to 2.4% (US$0.09) to US$3.72 per kilo.
On Trans-Atlantic routes, Chicago-Europe rates declined by nearly 4.5% (US$0.08) to US$1.71 per kilo. Westbound, Frankfurt-US prices were down almost 3.6% ((US$0.13) to US$3.75 per kilo.
“The market as a whole lacks direction in terms of the week-on-week price change. However overwhelming sentiment remains in favour of a bullish Q4. A fundamental lack of belly capacity persists given a slow return of passenger traffic. Cargo is being re-introduced into the market in what CLIVE Data Services calls a ‘gradual but consistent’ month-on-month recovery,” FIS commented.
“At least this is the very public line taken by a number of airlines – much remains uncertain. We do not yet know the impacts or volumes of product releases September onwards, and we absolutely do not know the future impacts of COVID-19 on global transport.”
It said the market was in “a wait-and-see moment” in terms of vaccine development “and airlines will still be looking to cargo units to support long-term financial stability at least until 2024 (according to IATA). And yet, we’ve seen a few examples where the advantages of airlines becoming more cargo-centric have been shunned. So we are hesitant to form any sort of long-term opinion on the cargo market. Volatility, as ever, remains prevalent.”