Global Forwarding, Freight Division

Air, ocean and overland freight forwarding services

Air, ocean and overland freight forwarding services are our core business. They include standardised transports as well as multimodal and sector-specific solutions, together with customised industrial projects and customs services. Our business model is based upon brokering transport services between customers and freight carriers. The global reach of our network allows us to offer efficient routing and multimodal transport options. Compared with the Group's other divisions, our operational business model is asset-light.

Air freight achieved volume growth despite uncertain market conditions

Despite the pandemic in 2021, we achieved noticeable volume growth with around 2.1 million tonnes (previous year: around 1.7 million tonnes) of export air freight transported.

Ocean freight market also reports higher volumes

With around 3.1 million 20-foot container units (previous year: around 2.9 million) transported, we managed to increase the ocean freight volume under the difficult circumstances of 2021.

After considerable downturn, European road transport market once again registers strong growth

Following a difficult 2020, the European road transport market once again registered strong growth in the reporting year. At the same time, a series of challenges arose; amongst those, an imbalance between supply and demand resulted in capacity constraints. However, supported primarily by strong growth in demand, DHL strengthened its position within the very fragmented European road transport market.

Satisfied customers and automated processes

We aim to design our services to be as user-friendly as possible. To do so, we systematically record customer feedback by calculating Net Promoter Scores and conducting annual satisfaction surveys. Based upon the information received, we define initiatives and actions aimed at steadily improving our products and services.

Another key enabler to improve the customer experience is our digitalisation roadmap. The global Transport Management System, whose introduction we concluded in the Global Forwarding business unit during the year under review, was the foundation for further scaling of global applications as well as automated and standardised processes.

We made every effort to push forward with the implementation of our standardised Transport Management System in the Freight business unit as well. Meanwhile, we are continually registering new user groups in our myDHLi portal, which is now available in 14 languages. We are also reaching new segments through sales channels such as Saloodo! - our digital marketplace for road freight - and our online freight portal for customers in Sweden.

Impacts of the pandemic on our business

The global forwarding market was still highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. Strong demand for goods drove the volume recovery whilst capacity shortages and infrastructure problems in both air and ocean freight caused freight rates to increase, at times considerably. Seabury Consulting forecasts an increase in total tonnes flown worldwide of 18.4 % for 2021.

The ocean freight market also registered an upturn in volumes, though to differing degrees depending on the region. Vessel capacity shortages, overstretched ports or those closed due to pandemic outbreaks, along with the blockage of the Suez Canal, resulted in congestion.

Similar to air and ocean freight, the European road transport market also experienced an extraordinary and challenging year in 2021. With COVID lockdowns easing and vaccination attempts rising, economic growth recovered and demand increased significantly. Combined with significantly altered market structures and shortage in important raw materials, this caused tremendous capacity constraints.