Currently, the once very confused global supply chain is smoothing out somewhat. According to Chris Connell, senior vice president of perishables-North America, for Kuehne + Nagel’s subsidiary Commodity Forwarders, Inc., perishable cargoes that switched from ocean vessels to air freight are returning to sea transport. Also, space demands are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels in many trade lanes.
Some 18 months ago, major delays started at seaports, with labor shortages, long lines and trucking difficulties. That is why growers, packers, and shippers of perishable items had no choice but to put more traffic into air freight. But last summer, a “heavy pivot” from air freight back to sea freight occurred as ocean terminals became less congested and sailing schedules more reliable.
Connell said air cargo belly operators had their labor issues as well, with shortages of ground handling staff but that situation was “more compounded” with sea freight operators than air cargo.
Asian air capacity not back to pre-pandemic levels
Meantime, there are still fewer aircraft -passenger and freighters- going into Asia than during the pre-pandemic. Connell: “We had hoped to see that air space capacity equalize itself in the summer of 2023 but with the strong U.S. dollar being a wild card in global trade, we will just need to wait and see how the supply and demand of both passenger travel that puts more cargo capacity in the air and peak perishable cargo demand, matches up.”