95% of the world’s cargo moves in passenger aircraft. Due to COVID-19 and the lack of passenger aircraft operating, cargo is now moving on scheduled freighter services. Capacity remains a challenge.

In general, overall air traffic increased from August, with more and more airlines resuming flights as the gradual reopening of societies continues. While this is a clear trend, it is expected that it will continue to be a slow and gradual recovery for the rest of 2020 and way into 2021.

Increased demand for pharmaceutical and medical supplies continues to push airfreight rates higher and cause space availability issues. Projections show that the capacity shortage in air cargo could last into next year and beyond.

There is likely to be further capacity constraints from China with Golden Week at the beginning of October, coupled with the new product launch for Apple, which will affect space and rates from the Shanghai region.

Dhaka (DAC) air export cargo movement is increasing and this trend may continue until December 2020. Some prime carriers have already increased rate BAR (Best Available Rate) from the first week of September, with others planning to increase rate BAR from the middle of September onwards. Considering limited space availability, carriers are not currently providing any ad hoc rates.

Airport operation is regular, however in the last couple of weeks there has been huge cargo at DAC airport. As maximum FRTR shipment scans have to be through EDS/EDD due to EU compliance, a good number of shipments are piled up in the EDS/EDD area for scanning. As a result, there is some backlog at the airport, which is causing shipments to be delayed for 1-2 days.

Ocean carriers are continuing with their “cautious” approach to capacity management, announcing a new series of blank sailings in Oct.  Both the 2M and THE alliances have withdrawn headhaul capacity in weeks 40 to 44 to mitigate expected reduced demand due to the Chinese Golden Week holiday, the first week of next month.  Alphaliner said that, notwithstanding that September “will be a strong month for the carriers”, their decision to avoid overcapacity in October proved they had “mastered the art of fine-tuning their capacity to match it with market demand”.

THEA will blank the sailing of its FE2 loop by the 19,870 teu Al Zubara in the first week of October and the second voyage of newbuild 23,820 teu HMM Rotterdam on the FE3, scheduled to sail from Asia in the week beginning 5 October. In addition, October will see the continued blanking of THEA’s FE4 loop, which will not be replaced by the ‘extra loaders’ deployed in August and September.

Meanwhile, the 2M has reacted to the peak demand prior to the Golden Week holiday by introducing ULCVs, such as the 19,437 teu MSC Erica and the 18,340 teu sister ships Marchen Maersk and Maribo Maersk, on its seasonal Asia-Europe AE55/Griffin ‘sweeper’ service, which was previously serviced by 14,000 teu tonnage, noted the consultant.

However, during October, the first three sailings of the AE55/Griffin loop will be blanked, in addition to the continued suspension of the AE2/Swan loop through the month.

“The Ocean Alliance has not formally announced a blanking scheme yet, but the latest schedules show three skipped sailings in Asia-North Europe loops, whereas a fourth sailing will be cancelled as the Evergreen-operated CES/NEU7 service will only offer two departures in three weeks with a ten-day interval,” said Alphaliner.

According to eeSea data, at the peak of the Covid lockdown demand slump in May, carriers withdrew 19% of sailings from Asia on the transpacific and cancelled 28% of their scheduled departures to Europe.

However, despite criticism that they over-reacted with their blanking programmes, carriers have not only reinstated many of the voided loops, but added extra loaders and sweeper services on the trade lanes.