September 28, 2023 - By :

Rush for e-commerce capacity could trigger airfreight rate rise

TAC Index said this morning there was a “distinctly firmer tone” in airfreight, as product launches trigger bookings and e-commerce continues to rise.

Rates out of China before Golden Week saw TAC’s Hong Kong outbound index rise 2.1% on the week before, while ex-Shanghai rose 5.9%. TAC also noted a jump in rates out of Vietnam, something other market watchers have spotted.

The launch of the iPhone 15 saw queues at Apple stores around the world, a boost for the manufacturer which last month reported its third consecutive quarter of sales decline, and in a boost for airfreight too. But TAC noted e-commerce could also trigger something of a peak.

TAC said there was “speculation that some forwarders, particularly on the e-commerce side, who have not secured sufficient capacity, yet may be left scrambling and forced to pay higher rates in the coming weeks”.

Delegates at last week’s ACHL conference in Athens agreed that e-commerce was becoming a staple for the airlines’ capacity. Asok Kumar, global head of airfreight for DB Schenker, said e-commerce was a “huge opportunity to grow”.

“One of the areas, even in this current market, out of China, is the e-commerce business continuing to grow, even though the market now is overall declining. We are finding that more and more of the capacity we procure from partner carriers is being allocated to e-commerce.”

DB Schenker already does some e-commerce, he added.

“We’re building capability in that area. It’s a conscious decision that we need to move into that, so we are also building capability in those areas of the origin and destination to service those customers. And a significant amount of e-commerce we already move today, they are moving in this bulk fashion, where the e-commerce companies themselves consolidate, build their ULDs and, basically, hand it to us. The idea now would be to add more value to that supply chain.”

Geopolitical issues also continue to affect airfreight rates.

One Asian forwarder said: “Air costs ex-Vietnam have gone high since mid-September, due to high demand before Golden Week in China, Apple launching the iPhone 15 and the impact from the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

“It’s not only Vietnam, but other Asian countries as well.”

The Freightos Air Index (FAX) saw a slight decline in its week-on-week overall index up to 24 September, although Japan-Europe rose some 9%.


By Alex Lennane