An UNCTAD rapid assessment of the war in Ukraine’s impact on trade and development confirms a rapidly worsening outlook for the world economy. And this has adversely impacted freight too. In 2021, 1.5 million containers of cargo were shipped by rail west from China to Europe. If the volumes currently going by container rail were added to the Asia-Europe ocean freight demand, this would mean a 5% to 8% increase in an already congested trade route.”On top of this, already expensive and overstretched maritime trade will find it difficult to replace these suddenly unviable land and air routes,” the report says. “The impact of the war in Ukraine can be expected to lead to even higher freight rates.”

In 2021, UNCTAD simulated that the freight rate increase during the pandemic raised global consumer prices by 1.5%, “with particularly oversized effects in vulnerable economies such as small island developing states, landlocked developing states and least developed countries”.