The reality is that there will always be incidences that cause disruption for some, but at the same time, they also create opportunities for others. South African businesses must continually contend with change and challenges, but it’s also what makes us seek opportunities to grow and be more resilient. It's in our DNA to overcome challenges, innovate, and stride forward, even when the odds are against us. 

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

  • Sea freight capacity reduction
  • Increasing freight rates
  • Transnet port constraints
  • Strong airfreight demand
  • Unfavorable weather conditions

Sea freight update

The first quarter of 2024 has by no means been smooth sailing when it comes to imports and exports. Shipping delays and port congestion across the South African ports continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side and the timeline to clear the backlogs continues to be extended. 

The market continues to experience disruptions and changes to carrier alliances, routings, and capacity. Unfavorable weather conditions have also impacted port operations at Durban, Coega, and Cape Town. Equipment breakdowns within the ports continue to impact port productivity. Tensions remain high in the Middle East and attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Aden have continued. The volatile situation puts additional risk on cargo and oil shipments in the region. 


Capacity availability into South Africa continues to be negatively impacted by the delays experienced across the South African ports. This has forced some carriers to implement blank sailings in April and subsequently created a reduction in capacity. MSC recently announced a change to their vessel routings ex-Far East into South Africa and have also subsequently phased in smaller vessels on the trade. This is a positive change for cargo discharging in Coega as their vessels will call Coega first and Durban thereafter with Cape Town bound cargo being transshipped via Coega. We have multiple carrier options across all trades to ensure we secure capacity to meet shipping deadlines and encourage bookings to be made three to four weeks in advance to secure space.

Global schedule reliability improved to:

Sailing schedules:

Vessel schedules continue to be inconsistent, and some carriers have been forced to either amend routings or discharge cargo at alternative ports because of the delays experienced across our ports. Transit times remain unpredictable and vessels arrivals from all trades into South Africa are still delayed. There has been a slight improvement in the number of vessels waiting at anchor outside our ports over the past week, but this situation could change quickly if unfavorable weather conditions and equipment constraints within the ports continue. Transporters continue to battle with obtaining booking slots to uplift containers from port which further impacts the total lead time of receiving shipments. We still encourage clients to consider Coega as a port of discharge for cargo shipping from the USA and Europe.

Global schedule reliability has improved slightly, but reliability remains well below acceptable levels. 

Schedule reliability improved month-on-month to 53.3% according to the latest Sea-Intelligence report. 

Freight rates:

Rate levels on the USA and Europe trades have remained stable. Carriers on the Far East and Middle East routes have either extended rates into April or passed increases as capacity in the market has been reduced and carriers are experiencing an increase in vessel utilisation relative for this time of the year. With additional blank sailings announced in April, some carriers are fully booked for April.

Air freight update

The airfreight market has been buoyant over the past quarter and most notably from Asia and the Middle East with Europe and USA trades remaining relatively stable. Recent heavy rains in Dubai did impact flight schedules. Air cargo volumes globally increased by 11% year-on-year compared to March 2023.

Transit Times:

We have experienced consistent transit times across the trades. Services via the Middle East could be impacted going forward if tensions in the Middle East escalate. . Cargo transiting via hubs across Asia may be subjected to delays as e-commerce demand has been exceptionally strong the past few weeks and cargo booked on premium service levels are getting priority. 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 have increased over the past few weeks, specifically ex-Asia and Middle East as demand increased. Rate levels ex-USA and Europe have remained stable. 

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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.