Date: 17.01.2023

Beating the transatlantic logistics challenge

The ocean freight trade-lane between Europe and the United States is dominated by a handful of large carriers and while we have good relationships and work closely with those carriers, we also maintain a roster of smaller carriers, for tactical use, including one which has a particular pedigree.

For the first time in decades the U.S. has imported more goods from Europe than from China, with U.S/UK trade increasing 15% year on year in 2022, which has contributed to keeping European transatlantic demand healthy and attracting carriers from less profitable trade-lanes, as global trade adjusts to the changes that are continuing to occur.

The transatlantic market has been remarkably stable recently. It was not impacted by the supply/demand issues that spiked Asian export rates at the start of the pandemic, with carriers re-deploying transatlantic ships to more lucrative transpacific and Asia-Europe trades, as well as equipment being seconded to those routes, as lockdown consumer demand soared.

And, while rates have since softened, the transatlantic trade-lane has avoided the rate collapse affecting services from Asia, with major shipping lines recently joining its competitors by adding additional vessels to transatlantic schedules.

Despite long-term rate and volume agreements we have in place with transatlantic carriers, to guarantee the carriage of our customers’ cargo and the addition of more vessels on the trade-lane, the general service available – cost, ports and transit – remain largely similar. 

Which is why the service provided by our group carrier, Ellerman City Liners, is so welcome, with fast transits and alternative, quieter more efficient ports.

Five vessels are deployed on the US Express’ (‘USX’) service, with a weekly sailing frequency between North Europe and US East Coast, calling at Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Tilbury, New York, Jacksonville and Wilmington (North Carolina), before returning to Antwerp.

The weekly USX sailings are the only direct service to and from Jacksonville, and with arrival into New York just nine days from Tilbury, USX offers one of the fastest and most reliable transit times available.

A major deliberation, and different approach Metro have taken over recent years, is in regard to the inland process within the USA which is still a challenge – but we have solutions that are bespoke and tailored to each of our clients requirements and expectations. The US is a big country after all, much of which is land-locked and needs a full end to end strategy and planning. Port to port is not necessarily the only transit defining  consideration to achieve the successful delivery of goods.

We really value the relationships we have built up with the primary shipping lines, over the last 40+ years and we welcome the opportunity to support them – as they often support us – because we take our contractual agreements very seriously.

But we value our customers too and our absolute focus is always to provide them with the most efficient and effective solutions. Optimisation of all the components necessary for consistent reliable services and when they need to avoid congested ports and terminals, require fast transit times, or want simple transhipment options to/from Spain, Portugal and Ireland, then the USX service is the option that ticks the boxes.

We negotiate long-term and FAK contracts with shipping lines across all three alliances to secure space and rates, so that we can provide the best alternatives and options, whatever the situation.

We leverage agreements across the alliances – and smaller niche shipping lines, when appropriate – to match port pairs and routings, or work around bottlenecks, to maintain resilient and reliable supply chains.

To learn how we can help support your trade with the United States, or to learn more about our USX service, please EMAIL our sea freight director, Andy Smith. He knows how to achieve results and ensure that your cargo arrives where it should and when it should, seamlessly.