The coronavirus outbreak continues to be profoundly disruptive to the global supply chain, especially as the US and many European countries are now battling to stop its spread.
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Here are the latest China-US container rates, which are heavily impacted by the ongoing developments:
- China-US West Coast prices (FBX01 Daily) rose 3% since last week to $1,515/FEU. Rates are 16% higher than last year’s prices for this week.
- China-US East Coast prices (FBX03 Daily) increased by just 1% to $2,745/FEU. This rate outpaces last year’s by 17%.
The impact of the ongoing pandemic on logistics is being felt in waves.
The initial lack of supply of goods being manufactured in China, and logistics workforce disruptions in the East has mostly been overcome as factories are in high gear. As a matter of fact, China’s busy ports have even turned the tables, requiring quarantines on incoming ships from affected countries.
Uncertainty and disruptions are now coming from the West as the US and European countries are increasingly shutting down, impacting both the flow and the demand for goods.
Impact on ocean freight
Last week’s spike in ocean rates has leveled off for the most part, with China-US West Coast prices climbing only 3% this week. This could mean that carriers overestimated how quickly Chinese manufacturing is recovering, in which case prices will remain at this level or even climb in the coming weeks.
But it is also possible that the rate spike represented a surge in orders placed by importers before the economic shutdown began in the West. The leveling off would mean that US importers are cancelling or not placing new orders, as much of the US shelters in place and industries like retail are already feeling the hit.
In fact, there are reports of large shippers already cancelling orders, and carriers blanking some sailings at the start of April for lack of demand.
Impact on air cargo
Air rates out of China and Europe continue to climb, as the spike in demand for time-sensitive items like pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, electronics and other goods crucial to the fight against the outbreak has combined with the slashing of passenger jet capacity.
More airlines are repurposing empty passenger planes as freighters to meet this demand, and the industry is asking for eased regulations to streamline cargo during the process.
WebCargo reported above average volumes of forwarders searching for dynamic air rates and had a near record number of air cargo eBookings placed last week, a sign of rapidly shifting capacity and pricing. Even in hard hit Italy, forwarders were still logging 72% of the searches made in the same week last year. In Spain, forwarders are able to stay active while working remotely, with 90% of last year’s search volume still being logged. Multiple airlines also experienced a surge in demand for live rates and capacity data, as some of their APIs struggled to handle the volume of requests.
US shutdown impact on logistics
As multiple states implemented shutdowns of varying severity, logistics has so far officially been spared by being categorized as an essential service exempt from restrictions. Federal agencies have even removed certain regulations to allow trucks to travel more quickly.
Trucking rates climbed in March to meet the surge in demand for household goods and medical supplies. But road freight in Europe is already experiencing delays in crossing borders though the industry is exempt from restrictions there too, and shutdowns of truck stops across the US are making trucking more difficult.
US ports are also showing the first signs of distress both from lack of demand and from the virus itself. Some terminals in Seattle and the Port of Miami suspended operations temporarily for lack of incoming cargo, and terminals at a Houston port also closed briefly due to a worker testing positive for COVID-19.
So another week has passed leaving us with more questions than answers as to how all this will play out, and hoping that the drastic measures being taken will push us toward recovery soon.