Boat Transportation Costs Surge in Early 2024 for Shipments from China to EU and North America

boat transportation

The beginning of 2024 has witnessed a notable surge in boat transportation expenses, particularly impacting shipments from China to the European Union and North America. This increase is attributed to global logistical challenges, which are significantly affecting various industries, including seafood exporters and seafood importers.

The primary cause for the rise in costs is the ongoing drought in the Panama Canal, a critical route for North American exporters and importers. Decreasing water levels in the canal have resulted in approximately one-third of standard bulk oil tankers diverting to longer routes around Chile and Argentina since February 2023. This rerouting has not only prolonged delivery times but also increased operational costs.

Simultaneously, the seafood industry is facing higher expenses due to the crisis in the Red Sea, impacting shipments that rely on the Suez Canal. These geopolitical and environmental factors have collectively led to a sharp increase in shipping expenses.

Furthermore, the urgency to fulfill orders before the Chinese Lunar New Year has exacerbated the situation. Shipping costs for frozen seafood leaving China have soared, with rates to the European Union doubling in just two weeks and those to North America doubling within a week. Shipping companies are adjusting freight rates twice daily, indicating the potential for further increases.

Another factor contributing to the increased shipping costs from China is the US ban on all Russian-origin seafood. This ban has resulted in a surge in exports from Chinese processing plants, eager to ship goods before the Lunar New Year closure to meet the February 21st deadline. As a result, significant price hikes are expected for products like cod and salmon in the US market.

Although companies using the Panama Canal have not yet experienced significant price increases, industry expert James Berger warns that such a scenario is imminent. The greater challenge currently lies in delayed product deliveries, which may soon lead to notable pricing impacts.

For North American exporters, an alternative to sea freight is utilizing railways to transport goods to and from West Coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach. This shift to land transportation is a strategic response to the rising sea freight costs and logistical complexities.

The early months of 2024 have been a challenging period for maritime transportation, particularly impacting shipments from China to the European Union and North America. The combination of environmental issues, geopolitical crises, and administrative orders has led to a dramatic increase in boat transportation costs, impacting industries globally and prompting a strategic reevaluation of shipping routes and methods.


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