After weeks of attacks by Yemeni Huthi rebels on merchant ships in the Red Sea, sea freight customers with cargo from the Far East to Europe can breathe a sigh of relief. "We assumed that the rate trend would only calm down after Chinese New Year on February 10, 2024, which is now actually the case," observes Jens Roemer, Regional Managing Director for Belgium, France and Switzerland at a. hartrodt in Antwerp. Container carriers are currently sailing around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa with around twelve days longer transit time and considerable additional costs compared to the Suez Canal. "On the other hand, the high canal fees can be saved," explains Jens Roemer.
Rates soon "close to pre-crisis level" again
The expert assumes that the situation will calm down "because demand is remaining low and more capacity is coming into the trade". He therefore expects rates to return soon "close to the level before the start of the crisis in the Red Sea". According to him, there are sufficient vessels and containers available worldwide "to deal with the extra capacity required to navigate around the Cape". However, making this available in the right place and at the right time will be a challenge.
Faster to Europe via Dubai-Jeddah land bridge
"Once again, our global network with experienced teams of highly professional management and staff have come to the rescue of the global supply chains of our customers," says Jens Roemer, summarizing the past turbulent weeks. This included changing orders "to be shipped by air freight instead of sea freight" or finding clever compromises such as sea/air transportation. "We also offered rail connections or a land bridge on the Arabian Peninsula from Dubai to Jeddah to get faster to Europe," he reports. For all solutions, a. hartrodt ensures the right documentation and customs process in each case.
Jens Roemer points out that shipping lines are currently realigning their schedules and using different ship sizes: "This means that more transhipment hubs are being used, which extends transit times." a. hartrodt regularly informs customers about estimated arrival times.