Drewry, a U.K.-based analyst, reported two percent year-over-year growth in global semiconductor sales in November, the first increase in 16 months.
The finding is important because the semiconductor sector has been a long-term reliable indicator of air cargo volumes. Drewry, a container shipping consultant that also now analyzes airfreight rates, takes the upturn as a sign of tentative recovery in airfreight demand.
However, airfreight rates slipped in December as the trade returned to business-as-usual following the volume boost from earlier technology product launches, according to Drewry’s monthly Sea + Air Shipper Insight report.
A price index that averages rates on 21 east-west trade lanes between Asia, Europe and North America fell by 1.4 points from November to a figure of 110.8 in December, ending four consecutive months of gains.
Research manager Simon Heaney said, “Drewry expects pricing on routes out of Asia to decline further in January, though the impact will be softened by an uptick in demand levels in advance of Chinese New Year.”
Air cargo demand could also see a temporary boost at the expense of the ocean market. With ocean currently facing capacity issues such as the looming threat of strike action at U.S. ports and carriers canceling voyages, shippers of higher-value goods may return to air transportation.
Demand growth for air cargo has lagged behind ocean, which Drewry believes is due to a combination of shippers having access to better IT systems, leaner inventory strategies and greater faith in liner service reliability.
The fall in airfreight pricing and a corresponding rise in container shipping rates sent Drewry’s east-west airfreight price multiplier down 1.3 points to 11.8 in December. The multiplier measures the relative cost of shipping by air and sea.