Air follows ocean, congestion soars

Disruption in the air freight market is following the crisis on the US West Coast as containers pile up and rates continue to tick ever higher. With more cargo needing to be expedited to avoid gaps in inventory while containers languish, air freight has seen incredible demand this year. As cargo conversion helped save airlines after passenger travel dried up during the pandemic, many forwarders are capitalizing on the capacity until the ocean mess is sorted.

This year, we’ve reported a number of records broken by the sheer quantity of imports crashing against our shores – from a record-setting year for the Port of Norfolk to a record-setting number of containerships waiting in San Pedro Bay. There has been a domino effect on the other modes of transport as truck capacity becomes non-existent, available space on rail carriers is diverted again as hubs are overwhelmed. We haven’t checked on the carrier pigeon option, but it stands to reason that’s going to have some issues at this point, too.

Airports in major hubs are experiencing extreme congestion, leading some cargo handlers to store pallets in the parking lot as warehouses run out of space. As holidays inch closer the capacity issues won’t be getting better until at least Lunar New Year, though analysts expect congestion to carry on through 2022 unless something drastic happens. We cannot let the cure be worse than the disruption.

The solution to such extreme demand? Time and patience are the only solutions that work. Planning ahead, being clear about needs, and being flexible with the options are the only ways that are confirmed to help keep cargo moving. Your support team at Nelson International is working hard to ensure our clients’ cargo hasn’t suffered too extensively during this disruption and we’re ready to talk to you about how we can help weather this tumultuous time.