Sea freight market update | Jan-Feb 2021

The new year in the sea freight business is starting where the old one ended. Due to space shortages and unbalanced trade flows, and as a result of pandemic-related economic production / demand fluctuations worldwide, many global supply chains are facing a test of endurance.

Trade lane updates

Far East – Europe

  • For westbound cargo, space situation remains extremely critical until Chinese New Year and the unexpected high cargo volumes are causing rates to jump to astronomical and unprecedented levels. 
  • Empty equipment availability, primarily for 40' GP and 40' HC, at loading locations such as Shanghai, Ningbo, Yantian and Nansha remains tight. There has been a slight easing but the situation remains critical. 
  • On eastbound routes, space is also very limited due to previous and further announced Blank Sailings until Chinese New Year. The rate situation is stable but the equipment availability for 40' GP and 40' HC is also challenging.  
  • DACHSER is in close contact with the shipping companies and national subsidiaries in order to offer proactive solutions and alternatives on a timely basis until an improvement occurs.


  • Carriers continue to offer limited cargo space. Advance bookings of 2-3 weeks are strongly recommended. It is expected that this situation will continue until the end of February. 
  • Especially at the U.S. ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, severe congestion of port operations has been experienced in the past weeks. Many vessels are already anchored on shore waiting to berth for unloading.
  • Unloading times per vessel are taking up to one week due to staff shortages caused by Covid-19 impacts and the holiday season. There are massive backlogs in both export acceptance and import release of containers.
  • The situation for trucking in the pre-carriage as well as on-carriage sectors is even worse. Trucking fees are being raised up to 400 %, increasing from day to day, and transports are only being carried out on prepayment.
  • Until Chinese New Year, there will probably be no change, therefore obviating the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and re-routing should to be taken into consideration.

As it is expected that the situation will remain challenging and unprecedented all the way through the first quarter and might affect also the beginning of the second quarter, DACHSER recommends long-term planning and asks their customers for information about upcoming transports as early as possible to be able to offer the best logistics solution.

Read the PDF below for the current development based on World Container Index and Shanghai Containerized Freight Index; more related articles

Please do not hesitate to contact your local DACHSER representative for further advise, possible alternatives and any further information that might be needed. 

Container Indexes PDF (0,05 MB)
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