As we move towards the middle of February, Chinese New Year is just days away with workers across China looking forward to their extended break. The run in to CNY has had its usual impact on supply chains, carrier performance and rates. We review the situation and consider the air, sea and rail outlook for 2018.


Sustained high demand did push the “air peak” through the traditionally busy Christmas period, but has kept on going with rates and demand high all the way through to Chinese New Year.

Because we have not seen the traditional drop in demand after Christmas, carriers have been able to maintain rates at higher levels compared to same period last year.
We expect to see demand slow some in the weeks following the forthcoming holidays.

The improving global economy is fuelling demand for air freight and the “avalanche of E-Commerce” is expected to continue for the remainder of 2018, which will keep space in high demand and higher rate levels for cargo ex-China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.


In the last two weeks we have seen a significant increase in bookings, resulting in space shortage, lack of equipment (in particular 40’ containers) and now delays affecting most shippers as the carriers build rolling pools for the holiday period. The surge in booked traffic has contributed to congestion at ports and the lines omitting Northern Chinese ports.

As we have been warning, carriers have announced ‘blank sailings’ for weeks 7, 8 and 9 after the CNY holidays. These vessel withdrawals are due to lower demand for space following factories closure during the holidays and may impact on planned shipping schedules after the holidays.

These same ‘blank’ sailings will impact exports from the UK as their withdrawal will cause corresponding gaps in the sailing schedules from UK ports.

A new coat of paint has inadvertently contributed to the equipment shortages!

A shift in China toward less toxic coatings for containers has delivered a price shock to global shipping.

China manufacturers make 90% of global shipping’s containers and the lines rely on them for a continuous supply to replace redundant equipment.

As part of their government’s pledge to cut emissions by 70%, Chinese manufacturers are coating containers with water-borne paints to avoid the green tax imposed in January 2018.

An unintended side-effect of these changes has been the global equipment shortages that followed as 70% of container production capacity in China shut down for re-tooling.

With Chinese New Year starting this Friday 16th February, sea freight rates are expected to remain steady throughout the rest of the month, with reduced capacity and low demand.

With Chinese New Year starting this Friday 16th February, sea freight rates are expected to remain steady throughout the rest of the month, with reduced capacity and low demand.


Services are running as scheduled. Demand for rail continues its dramatic growth, with operators adding more volume and services.

Currently, there are departures from 35 Chinese cities, with cargo trains serving 12 different European cities.

The UK has not previously seen the full benefit due to the need to transship containers to the road in Hamburg and the Customs complications of transiting non-EU cargo.

Rail services have been most successful into Northern Europe, but the recent successful UK tests mean that we expect direct trains to start serving the UK in Q2 2018.

On average, a transit from China to Europe is about 16-18 days for a block-train and 19-22 days for single box shipping.

Asian rail services are relatively expensive and immature, with services still in development and patchy performance, which means rail is not suitable for every shipper, or destination.

If you are interested in exploring the possibilities of rail, our Shanghai-based dedicated rail freight team are ready to provide expert advice and guidance. (Email

Asia/Europe rail service options have really “boomed” in recent years. following the investments in the Belt and Road Initiative that was presented back in 2013 by China.

Since then the development has been very rapid, in 2016 it was 1,700 departures which were twice the amount of departures made in 2015 and in 2017 it was over 6,000 departures.

When finalised the ‘Iron Silk Road’ will connect the Eurasia inland areas with Europe / China and link areas representing 75% of the world population.

2018 is the year of the dog.

On behalf of all colleagues at NORMAN GLOBAL LOGISTICS, we wish you and your family a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year; Kung hei fat choi ! / Xin Nian Kuai Le !


Hong Kong: Office closed 16th to 19th February.
China: Office closed 15th to 21st February (11th & 24th on duty).
Vietnam: Office closed 14th to 20th February.