There is a sense of exasperation in the market because of the steep freight increases being passed while sea freight capacity has been reduced. Unfortunately, it’s starting to feel like we are in a similar position to when we were at the peak of Covid.

Rates are increasing on a weekly basis and carriers are deploying capacity to the higher yielding trades which is not good news for South Africa. As we did during the dark days of the pandemic, we have to ride out this wave and know that market conditions will improve again over time. For the time being, there will be a price to pay to get cargo loaded. 

The impact of the following key factors needs to be continually assessed and considered:

  • Erratic schedules
  • Blank sailings
  • Sea freight capacity constraints
  • Freight surcharges (PSS/GRI’s)
  • Port equipment breakdowns
  • Strong airfreight demand

Sea freight update

The market is currently experiencing a turbulent time with an increase in the number of blank sailings, continuous operational constraints across South African ports and steep freight rate increases. We anticipate market conditions to remain challenging over the coming months.

The diversion of vessels from transiting through the Suez Canal, due to tensions in the Red Sea, continues to impact the market and additional capacity has been deployed from other trades onto the various service strings routing around the Cape of Good Hope. 


Following on from April, carriers continued to implement blank sailings on the Far East to South Africa trade which has significantly reduced capacity availability. Some carriers have also reported large roll-over pools and have subsequently suspended accepting new bookings until further notice as they clear up backlogs. 

There is a severe demand vs supply imbalance for both capacity and equipment on the Far East trade. Bookings need to be made three to four weeks in advance. One can still expect blank sailings to be implemented at short notice in June as vessels returning from South Africa continue to be badly delayed.

Capacity availability on the rest of the trades has been stable and we have not experienced the same disruptions as that of the Far East.

Month-on-month improvement in global schedule reliability

Sailing schedules:

It's no secret that carriers are not able to meet their scheduled transit times. Anchorage delays outside South African ports have improved over the past few weeks, but unfortunately this is due to port omissions and a reduction in inbound capacity, and not because of improved performance by Transnet.

Equipment breakdowns remain a major issue for the ports and therefore negatively impact port operation. Vessel berthing delays remain on average between 10 to 16 days in Durban and between five to eight days at Coega and Cape Town ports.

Carriers will continue to omit port calls or re-route vessels at short notice should they foresee severe delays to their schedules. A majority of vessel sailings are running behind schedule into and from South Africa. Additional lead time still needs to be factored in until further notice.

Global schedule reliability has improved slightly, but remains well below acceptable levels. Schedule reliability improved month-on-month to 53.3% according to the latest Sea-Intelligence report. 

Freight rates:

Carriers have implemented aggressive rate increases on the Far East trade and further increases can be expected. We are seeing rates increase on a weekly basis for both FCL and LCL. Carriers have also re-introduced priority booking surcharges in addition to peak season surcharges (PSS) and general rate increases (GRI’s).

They are giving preference to bookings made on the priority service at the higher freight levels. GRI’s of $1000/TEU have been implemented and average market rates have already breached $2500/TEU from the Far East.

Rate levels as high as $7500/40ft for priority bookings have already been reached. Fortunately, our rate levels on the Europe, India and USA trades remain stable with minimal rate fluctuations.

Air freight update

The air freight market has experienced a few disruptions of late and tensions within the Middle East continue to impact the sea freight market resulting in strong demand for air freight services.

Transit times:

Transit times have been remained relatively stable across the most trade routes. With current pressure and disruptions in the sea freight market and strong demand for air capacity ex-Middle East region, we expect temporary cargo backlogs which will impact the total lead time of shipments originating or transiting through Asia and the Middle East.

We encourage you to provide your required arrival dates in advance for us to offer you optimal routings and rates to meet your requirements.

Freight rates:

Spot rates remain high for this time of the year, specifically ex-Asia and Middle East as demand remains strong. Rate levels ex-USA and Europe have remained stable.

Partner with Investec

Optimise your import business with an end-to-end logistics and inventory finance solution.

Quantum of funding required: Your business needs to be able to support a minimum lend of R5m (working capital) and R1m (asset finance).


Please complete all required fields before sending.

Thank you

We will be in touch shortly

Sorry there seems to be a technical issue

Investec Import Solutions


As your logistics partner, we remain fully committed to offering you import solutions that support your business needs. We have a strong international network for both air and sea modes which we leverage to ensure that we continue to offer you the best viable solutions for your business. We are aware that current market conditions are volatile and challenging, and we remain dedicated to serving and working with you during these times.

Comprehensive offerings to support your business growth  

Our working capital finance is designed to boost and free up cash for optimising or growing your business. We offer a number of tailored financing solutions to suit your business needs.

Colourful inventory shipping containers and cranes

Trade Finance

We provide financing for the purchase of stock and services on terms that closely align with your working capital cycle.  For importers, our fully integrated solution provides a single point of contact for the end-to-end management of your imports, including order tracking, the hedging of foreign exchange risk, the physical supply of product, and the provision of a consolidated landed cost per item on delivery.

Comparing notes against financial graphs

Debtor Finance

Funding the needs of your business by leveraging your balance sheet (debtors, stock, and other assets) to provide you niche asset-based lending or longer-term growth funding to assist you in growing your business and creating shareholder value.

Yellow excavator digger

Asset Finance

Niche funding for the purchase of the productive assets and other capital requirements needed to grow your business.  We alleviate the requirement for the upfront capital investment in these assets.