After falling 3.7% in real terms (holding prices and exchange rates constant) last year, the global forwarding market is expected to contract a further 3.9% by the end of the year, reducing its market value to just over €334.3bn ($424.6bn).
Research analyst Transport Intelligence (Ti) notes, in its recent report, Global Freight Forwarding Market Size & Forecasting 2022-2027, that the “cautious optimism in early 2023 that the world economy could achieve a soft landing has receded amid continued high inflation”
It adds: “According to the IMF, risks to the outlook are heavily skewed to the downside, with the chances of a hard landing having risen sharply.”
Air, specifically, is forecast to decline by 4.7% in real terms this year, after falling 7.3% in 2022, with a market value of almost €125.6bn. Several factors continue to impact performance, says the report, including war in Ukraine, high inflation and fuel prices. In addition, air freight’s competitive advantage over sea has ended as prices there have rapidly declined and congestion has eased.
According to IATA figures this year, measures by governments to combat inflation by cooling economies are expected to result in a further decline in cargo volumes this year of 5.6% on 2019 and 4% below last year.
The sea freight forwarding market is forecast to contract by 3.5% (-1.5% last year) to a market value of almost €208.8bn.
Ti said: “The market will continue to be affected by depressed consumer behaviour. The very strong supply of vessels combined with mediocre, or even falling, demand, as well as resolved port congestion, point to a downward trajectory for freight rates.”
It added that a major factor weighing on demand for both air and sea freight forwarding services was that the inventory to sales ratio was currently at historically high levels.
“In periods of low inventory, air freight benefits disproportionately as shippers seek to rapidly move stock into the right locations and replenish stores to match supply with demand,” the report says.
Looking further ahead, Ti notes that taking into account that the global economy is forecast to experience a prolonged period of subpar growth, the global freight forwarding market is expected to reach a market value of just over €377.2bn in 2027, based on a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 1.6%. The air and sea freight forwarding markets are projected to expand at a CAGR of 1.7% and 1.6% respectively.
By Stuart Todd