Market Update

Market Update May

May 10, 2021
Sasha Khan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
8 Minutes

Market Update – May

What can be expected for the month ahead?

Coronavirus, Brexit, the Suez Canal; the past year global trade has been thrown curveball after curveball, challenge after challenge, problem after problem. In a regular trading environment, May tends to be a quieter season for shippers, however, there are many hesitations as to whether this will be the case. Carriers are looking to find a balance between supply and demand; shippers are facing the risk of further capacity reductions; and there is the potential possibility of Peak Season Surcharge (PSS). As it stands, we all need to expect the unexpected.

The latest on container capacity  

The supply chain industry had only just begun to recover from the effects of the pandemic that caused a standstill on economic movements, which suddenly shifted to a surge in demand, causing ports struggling to keep up and are now powering through at full capacity. We expect that the surge in consumer demand and a decline in container availability is due to continue throughout May. Rumours of blank sailings are floating around, with them expected to be announced at short notice, as we await more knowledge on the impact of the Suez Canal backlog.

Canal conundrums and port congestion

More recently, the seven-day blockage to the busiest trade lane in the world caused a severe backlog and whilst the canal may be free, businesses can expect to feel the impact for months to come.  

In the next two weeks, we will feel the back lash of the Ever Given blockage and delays. The vessels that were delayed will now start to arrive in waves, causing huge congestion in UK ports. Turnaround time for FCL’s will be more than 48 hours and LCL devanning time will go from 48 hours to 10 days.    

Global port congestion is going to be a huge problem looking ahead, with ships unable to dock at key gateways, an influx of traffic arriving simultaneously to ports and often resulting in cargo missing connecting ships or trucks, leading to even more scheduling problems.  

As port officials still scramble to direct the cargo ship traffic jam through the canal, this weeklong delay will cause issues across all points within businesses supply chains. Another added pressure to an already heavily strained system.

The importance of insurance

The Evergreen incident is a constant lesson to those who don’t insure. Insurers have warned that only a handful of vessels have accounted for delay cover, with an overwhelming majority of those stuck in the canal gridlock might not be able to reclaim sizeable expenses.  

It is suggested that around 90% of vessels have not covered themselves; with no real picture on the arrival of vessels to their final destinations, will only add to further industry woes.  

It’s anticipated that we’re looking at extensive and lengthy litigation and after the most complex general average claim of all time, associated parties must prepare themselves for a complicated process to get their freight released.

Concerned about insurance? We can help insure your goods – contact us now.

A brief overview:

  • Deterioration in schedule reliability, as vessels arrive to their destinations late, port congestion delays incur, leading to late vessels on their return to Asia to pick up new shipments. This creates departure and arrival delays on the next voyage of every vessel.
  • Reduction in container capacity. The Suez Canal weeklong delay pulls a week’s capacity out of the shipping market at a time where consumer demand is high and ships are full. Further to this, to get ships back on schedule, carriers are beginning to cancel sailings, pulling out even more capacity.
  • Equipment shortages in Asia continue on as vessel delays are resulting in empty containers not being returned to origin to be refilled with new cargo.  
  • India’s Covid situation has caused huge issues obtaining vessel space since some shipping lines are refusing to export from the country.
  • Cost increases are still visible as the continued pressures on the market drive ocean rates to an all time high
  • Maersk have increased their Southern Star service in an effort to increase efficiency and sailing frequency across New Zealand ports. Read our article to find out more.

What are Unsworth clients concerns?

What we’re consistently hearing from our clients is that they are having issues with their bookings taking much longer than planned to arrive, increasing the risk of stock issues in the UK.  

There is a huge challenge to find the balance between supply and demand but the increase in rates is a persistent cause for concern. We started to see a downward trend in rates that we thought and hoped would continue, however, high volume, the ongoing Covid challenges and the delays from the Suez Canal have caused rates to skyrocket instead. Many clients held back on shipping in April, hoping the downward trend would work in their favour, however, they are now stuck in a position where they have no choice but to accept extremely high rates just to ensure they get their goods where they need to be.  

We’re seeing a bit of a lull, as China are currently on a national holiday, so it’s been a little bit quieter, allowing some breathing room for the current pressures. Customers who haven’t secured space for next week will be rushing to find something, posing a difficult challenge and forces the industry to feel the repercussions.

What can Unsworth do to help?

Delays aren’t going away anytime soon, so it is more important than ever to prioritise visibility and flexibility, with contingencies in place to help you plan for the unexpected.

We continue to encourage you to explore ways to build resilience within your supply chain that can help build and strengthen contingency plans. Ensure you have assessed major chokepoints and budgeted for time delays and fluctuating rates. Have you utilised your free access to Pathway and understood how to maximise the benefits of this platform? If not, book your demo here.

We can’t stress the importance of forecasting enough. Reach out to our teams or your account manager today to discuss your forecasts with them and understand what position you will be in when it comes to availability and rates. Haulage availability will be near impossible at this point, so our teams have been asking customers to secure their spots as far in advance as possible.  

Let’s keep in touch.

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