Market Update

Freight Market Update: May 20, 2020

Ocean and air freight rates and trends; customs and trade industry news for the week of May 20, 2020.

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Ocean Freight Market Update

Air Freight Market Update

Freight Market News

European Ports Bear Downturns As the impact of COVID-19 hopscotches the globe, European ports are now being hit hardest by decreased container volumes and cancelled sailings that are approximately 300% higher than last year, according to a survey of 76 ports conducted by the International Association of Ports and Harbors and reported in the WSJ.

Trucking Hours of Service Expand The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a new final ruling that permits truck drivers to drive longer periods of time, split required off-duty times into chunks, and count non-driving time spent on other tasks as breaks. According to EHS Today, rules will be implemented 120 days after publication in the Federal Register and are a response to two years of data, rather than a reaction to COVID-19.

Scrubber Installations on Hold With oil prices remaining low, shipowners are postponing the installation of scrubbers that reduce the environmental impact of high-sulfur fuel oil in accordance with IMO 2020 regulations. Hellenic Shipping News reveals that despite a narrowing price spread between high and low-sulfur fuel oil, ships have cancelled scrubber installations scheduled for Q4 2020 and drydocking periods of 2021.

Meanwhile, this week, Flexport Chief Economist Dr. Phil Levy noted the following economic highlights:

  • US industrial production plummeted in April, falling 11.2%, the largest drop in the history of the Fed index. Manufacturing output fell 13.7%. Output of motor vehicles and parts fell more than 70%. Broader industrial capacity utilization hit a new low of 64.9%, which is 14.9% below its long-run average.
  • US consumer prices hit record declines as prices fell 0.8% in April, the largest drop since 2008. The biggest single factor was the 21% fall in gas prices, but “core CPI,” excluding food and energy, still fell 0.4%.
  • US household pessimism rises with a New York Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Expectations for April finding that over the next year: 21.9% of respondents expected their household income would decrease; median expected spending growth was 2.2%, a series low; and 46.7% expected credit to be harder to access.
  • Oil supply heads for 9-year low with the International Energy Agency reporting that global oil supply looks set to fall 12 million barrels per day in May to 88 mb/d. Global demand is showing a slight recovery as lockdown restrictions ease.
    • Benchmark WTI crude closed Friday at $29.65/barrel, up more than 40 percent from the beginning of May.
  • Major economies shrank in Q1 as the Japanese GDP fell at an annualized 3.4% rate, while Germany’s GDP was down 2.2% from the previous quarter.
  • Mixed Chinese data reveals industrial output rose a better-than-expected 3.9% in April, while retail sales fell 7.5%.

Customs and Trade Updates

USTR Grants New Section 301 Extensions The USTR granted an extension until the end of 2020 to 13 exclusions on the first tranche of Section 301 tariffs that had been set to expire on May 14, 2020. The 27 exclusions on the original list that are not listed in this notice have now expired.

Huawei Export Restrictions Amended The Commerce Department stated in a release that it will be increasing some restrictions on chips exported to Huawei and its affiliates. In the interim final rule, any semiconductor designs and items like chipsets that are products of US software and technology will not be allowed for export without a license. If a company has already begun production for an item prior to May 15, they will have 120 days to complete the item and export it before they fall under the new rules. The Chinese Commerce Ministry has indicated it will retaliate against these new restrictions.

CBP Trade Statistics Updated CBP updated their Trade Statistics page. It shows the normal Section 201, 232, and 301 total duties assessed now total over $60 billion, an amount that accounts for refunds that were issued due to exclusions. CBP also added a new set of statistics that show that deferred duty payments total approximately $105 million.


For a roundup of tariff-related news, visit Tariff Insider.

Please note that the information in our publications is compiled from a variety of sources based on the information we have to date. This information is provided to our community for informational purposes only, and we do not accept any liability or responsibility for reliance on the information contained herein.

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