Supply Chain Industry Insights

December 2023

There is good news for the holiday season with stable inventories and strong consumer spending that has outpaced predictions, resulting in over 200 million shoppers participating in the Thanksgiving holiday shopping season, surpassing last year’s record by over 18 million shoppers.

In trucking, volumes remained high at the beginning of December, outpacing the same time last year as well as in the same period in the often-cited pre-pandemic 2019. While capacity remains high, and trucking continues to face challenges, we’ll take whatever good news we can get.

Spot rates for ocean freight have continued to fall. This is bad timing for shipping lines as contract rates are due for renegotiation in the new year, and low spot rates set the tone for unprofitable contract rates. This would likely lead to more blank sailings to reduce capacity in 2024.

The situation in the Panama Canal is getting even worse as wait times more than triple for ships that do not have a reservation. This is a result of the Panama Canal Authority cutting the number of daily reservations slots from 32 at the beginning of November to 22 with another planned drop to 18 by Feb. 1. We can expect further decline in traffic well into 2024 and perhaps beyond, as the years-long drought takes its toll on the embattled canal.

In addition to the Panama Canal, things have been heating up around the Suez Canal with multiple attacks from Houthi rebels as an extension of the unrest in the Middle East that has disrupted normal activity through the canal. This has led shipping giant Maersk to pause all container shipments through the Red Sea. We will continue to monitor the situation.

The benchmark diesel price continues to slide as it has the last few months. Factors leading to this decrease include on-going high volume production from US producers, high inventories and the late start of winter weather.

A strong holiday shopping season, trucking gets a little good news, ocean rates remain perilous, and diesel pricing continues to fall. It has been a tumultuous year, but PGL will be here to keep you informed and will keep delivering peace of mind, 24/7/365.

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