Market analysis

International logistics in turmoil

Donau Carbon

At the end of 2023, there was an escalation of political unrest in the region around the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.


Strategic importance of the Gulf of Aden

The Gulf of Aden lies between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia on the African side. Through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, ships enter the Indian Ocean from the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden. The approximately 30 kilometer wide strait is of strategic importance for world trade. Almost 40 percent of international trade by ship is estimated to pass through the Bab al-Mandab, much of it via the Suez Canal, which leads to the Mediterranean.


Increase in attacks on merchant ships leads to detours

As a result of the political escalation, attacks on merchant ships passing through the strait have increased since the end of 2023, some of them fatal. For safety reasons, most shipping companies have changed their routes and now sail around the Cape of Good Hope towards Europe. In the last few months, the situation has become more serious, the danger areas have expanded, meaning that ships have to take even further detours.


Effects on international trade routes

The longer transit times lead to far-reaching consequences on international trade routes. Not only are there delayed deliveries, but also significant shifts in routing schedules, which, for example, lead to ship congestion in the ports.

Bottlenecks for empty containers and reduced capacities

Another big problem is that empty containers are not available in time, which in turn leads to limited space on the ships. According to estimates from Maersk, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, there is currently a 15-20% reduced capacity available on the routes between the Far East and Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.


Effects on activated carbon supply

Most activated carbon comes by ship from Asia. This means that practically all activated carbon suppliers are affected by the current logistical challenges. In addition to ensuring availability, additional costs are also a major problem. To cover their additional costs for the longer journeys, higher fuel consumption and increased speed of the ships in order to save time, the shipping companies charge surcharges on top of the - already increased - sea freight rates. These surcharges are often collected and implemented at very short notice, for example in the form of a “peak season surcharge”. Even without the – often hefty – surcharges, sea freight rates in the 5-digit range are currently being quoted again.


Our recommendations and how we can support you

There is currently no improvement in the situation in sight. Activated carbon customers in Europe must continue to prepare for longer delivery times and increased freight costs. Still, there are some steps you can take now:


1. Plan for longer delivery times for activated carbon

The delivery time for activated carbon is currently between 10 and 12 weeks. Therefore, take longer delivery times into account when calculating your requirements and place your order early.


2. Rely on longer-term supplier agreements 

Longer-term agreements improve the possibilities for proactive control, including by securing capacities or planning transports in a timely manner. Donau Carbon also stocks a wide range of activated carbon in Europe. Standard activated carbon grades are available at various central warehouses in Germany for a wide range of applications such as water treatment, gas and air purification, the food sector or solvent recovery. 


3. Check alternative products

Sometimes activated carbons can also be used in the production process, which may not quite meet the ideal specification but are available more quickly. If a product becomes very scarce, we will check the usability of alternative products for your application in consultation with our application technology department. The standard products in our warehouses can be used in a variety of ways and are an effective option for bridging bottlenecks in an emergency.


4. Optimize logistics routes

The tense situation currently requires a high degree of flexibility and quick solutions if there are problems in the port. If necessary, we optimize the logistics routes or work with you to examine logistical alternatives such as other ports that have better availability, or rail or truck transport.


Conclusion: Ensure activated carbon supply in a timely manner

Secure your activated carbon needs in good time and take the significantly longer delivery times from Asia to Europe into account in your planning.
We gladly are here to support you!

Donau Carbon


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