Understanding How the Pandemic Has Affected Freight Forwarding This Year and Anticipating Future Changes
It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the global supply chain. From transportation to manufacturing to distribution and retail, all industries have experienced new challenges this year – challenges that will likely continue through at least Chinese New Year. To help you understand the factors that may impact your shipment, we’ve broken down how COVID-19 has affected shipping logistics this year so far.
Changes to Production and Demand
As COVID-19 spread around the world, international lockdowns halted production and slowed global economies in an unprecedented way. From April through June, global volumes came to a standstill. The limited products available for shipping experienced slowed journeys as cargo was stopped at origin or destination ports for various quarantining procedures.
By July, however, China had returned to full production, boosting availability and, subsequently, demand. This demand has not slowed: w=While September and October always see large order volumes from China as retailers prepare for the holidays, American imports from the Asia Pacific were 23.7% higher in October of this year than last year, and 10% higher than the month prior.
Globally, output increased in 22 of 26 subsectors in October, with automobiles and parts, banks, chemicals, and machinery and equipment representing the top performers.
Impacts of COVID-19 on Transportation
Sluggish demand in the spring forced ocean carriers to blank sailings to cut losses, while reduced air traffic significantly reduced capacity in the skies as well. However, as sales picked up exponentially, carriers found themselves faced with the opposite problem: A surge of demand outweighing available cargo space.
Workforce shortages and various quarantine regulations slowed the devanning process, lengthening container churn from 1-2 days to 5-7 days. Despite carriers shortening container free time and increasing demurrage and detention charges, this reduced pace still created a build-up on the supply chain. Further fueling the imbalance, carriers struggled to get their equipment back to the origin ports where it was needed.
At the ports, the trucking industry was also impacted by surging volumes. Long lines and road congestion significantly lengthened the time needed to get containers out of and back to ports, generating a chassis shortage and slowing transport times. Able to move fewer containers than normal, trucking companies struggled to cover their costs.
Adjustments to Rates
Motivated by high export rates from Asia, carriers reduced the number of full containers available on the back-haul voyage to China, forcing customers to book more LCL in place of FCL shipments. This has further impacted the capacity shortage, driving up the cost of additional space. Likewise, lack of space on vessels forced cargo owners to pay a premium in spite of FCL contracts.
With all of these factors, shipping rates around the world have significantly increased. From Asia Pacific ports to Los Angeles, many rates doubled. From China to Europe, they tripled, with some containers moving at a rate of more than $8,500 per 40’. Even the typically stable Intra-Asia lanes experienced heavy rate increases.
How SiShips Can Help
We know there are a lot of changes impacting the freight forwarding industry right now. We’re here to help you stay on top of new rates, deadlines, and more, so you can be confident you’re always receiving the best option available for your business.