Air cargo congestion not widespread, despite higher volumes


News of severe air cargo congestion at some handling facilities at airports with sea-air traffic appears not to be widespread –however, airlines do acknowledge high volumes currently.

This week, dnata in Dubai and BFS in Bangkok both announced a suspension on cargo: but these appear to be localised issues. Emirates SkyCargo said its Dubai operations were unaffected and one industry data analyst said they could not see anything in current rates to indicate widespread problems.

“dnata looks like a company issue, not a market issue.”

Etihad Cargo told The Loadstar its Abu Dhabi (AUH) hub was unaffected, but a spokesperson added: “We have high volume of inbound trucking into Dubai which is impacted by the disruption.

“We are offering customers support to clear cargo at AUH. Etihad Cargo did not impose any embargo, as we are managing by buffering cargo in AUH for subsequent dispatch to Dubai.”

Scan Global Logistics said yesterday that “traditional sea-air hubs, such as Colombo, Singapore and Dubai, have experienced massive congestion, and even in Bangkok and Doha, a similar situation has been apparent”.

However, a source in Colombo denied there was any congestion: “Yes, volumes are high with sea-to-air movements. Extra volume is clearing through charter freighters, but there is not any serious congestion at the moment.”

Scan Global said short-term rates had increased 30% in past weeks, but added: “We do not expect this to be a sustained situation, and our assessment remains that the development in recent weeks more pertains to a last rush ahead of the lunar new year, and the effect from Red Sea delays, prompting shippers across Europe and the US to utilise airfreight to avoid empty shelves and stock-outs.”

The only sustained rate surge appears to be out of Vietnam into Europe, however, according to sources. Metro Shipping said it had seen cargo volumes from Vietnam spiking 62% in one week last month.

Metro added today it had seen a “huge spike in air cargo demand, due to the Red Sea crisis creating lower-than-expected inventory levels.

“Products that should have arrived by ocean freight against original forecasts from last year have been delayed in transit, as a consequence of the re-routing of vessels from the Middle East passage. In addition, the Chinese New Year spring festival … has seen a rush for air freight capacity before the factory shutdowns throughout Asia.”

It added: “Elevated tonnage figures to Europe from Asia Pacific and from the Middle East and South Asia do reflect some contribution from modal shift on these lanes, from sea to air and to sea-air, though spot rates are not rising as rapidly as feared, given the disruption to ocean shipping in the Red Sea.”

Metro, which saw a 300% rise in enquiries for air and sea-air services in recent weeks, said the heightened demand would likely be short-lived.

“We expect this will not have a long-term impact on airfreight and the initial nerves and uncertainty will subside as shippers accept that ocean freight will just take two weeks longer.

“It is not quite ‘pay-to-play’ but rates are definitely moving north, regardless of the region and market, we have observed.

“While an increase in airfreight and sea-air volumes is apparent, it is not at a magnitude likely to cause disruption, and it remains to be seen if it will be sustained past the lunar new year.”


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