Date: 24.01.2024

General Red Sea Update

The US and UK carried out eight strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen on Monday, as the Iran-aligned armed group continues to target commercial shipping in the Red Sea, with no sign that the conflict will de-escalate anytime soon.

While many hoped that the situation in the Red Sea might be a short-lived crisis, it is edging closer to the challenges that global supply chains faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The ripple effects caused by the necessity of re-routing around 90% of all container ships from Asia around the Cape of Good Hope are immense. Analyst Sea-Intelligence are concluding that the vessel capacity drop is the second largest after the ‘Ever Given’ got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days during March 2021. 

With 10+ days added to the normal transit the drop in available capacity has sent freight rates rocketing, with container equipment challenges growing and expected to become far more difficult in the run up to the Chinese lunar new year. 

CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest carrier, announced an empty container imbalance surcharge of $100 per unit on top of similar equipment surcharges out of Turkey to the Mediterranean and North Africa announced last week.

There is one significant difference between now and the Ever Given situation and the pandemic, which is demand is lower and the shipping lines have injected significant capacity to maintain services. 

The Ever Given disruption occurred during a period of scarce capacity and historic peak demand, which was why rates skyrocketed and while we aren’t currently at those highs, the recent rate surge is noticeable in the short term.

The current delays and projected longer transit times are already impacting manufacturers across the globe, with many forced to halt production due to shipment delays, while many retailers have warned of product delays and cost increases. 

The next two-to-three weeks could be interesting, with bunched vessels arriving at the main ports, potentially triggering port delays driver shortages and cargo build-ups at warehouses.

The window for booking air freight ahead of Chinese New Year is closing and vessels are quickly filling, which is why we would urge you for your shipping deadlines, so that we can book your space and services at the best possible rates. 

Sharing forecasts for your forthcoming movements is an essential tool in managing your freight and expectations, and reserving the equipment you need, when you need it. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the impact of the Suez situation on your Asia supply chain, or would like to discuss its wider implications, please EMAIL our Chief Commercial Officer, Andy Smith.