May 2021 International Market Update

An update from Sunset’s International Team


  • Most trade lanes showing strong growth in the last three months
    • Transpacific Eastbound grew by 23% while the Transatlantic Westbound grew by 11%
  • North American and Asia Pacific imports drive the strong recovery of global container trade.
  • Transpacific reached all time high levels in container trade since August 2020.
  • Demand for face masks remains strong as 115,000 additional TEU versus last year we imported over the last three months. China, Vietnam, and India driver demand for semi-manufactured goods.
  • Demand and Capacity have strong growth rates since September 2020.
  • Container Trade recovery continues its upward trajectory.


  • After strong declines in 2020, air cargo demand completed its recovery to 2019 levels in January 2021. With available capacity still lagging, air cargo load factors have greatly increased.
  • The air cargo demand supply imbalance has pushed load factors and yields to historically high levels. Load factors have increased 20% since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Automotive, high tech, and chemicals led demand recovery in the last quarter, while fashion goods and temp controlled goods struggled.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic made the USA more dependent on China than ever before. High tech from China accounted for 12% of all USA air imports in Q2 and Q4 2020.
  • China’s recovery is not limited to air exports. Air imports have also seen a strong growth in the last months.
  • Air cargo capacity is still down 7% in Q1 2021
    • The Transpacific and Asia to Europe were the only trade lanes showing positive capacity growth rates in Q1 2021.
  • Freighters continue to drive global capacity recovery. While belly cargo capacity recovers slowly, it is still 47% below pre-COVID levels.
  • Many widebody passenger aircraft orders have been deferred while freight orders have increased YOY
  • Double digit PMI growth has not been recorded for almost 10 years and hints at strong air freight demand in the coming months.

Source: JAS Forwarding

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