coronavirus international shipping

To view updates on all previous Coronavirus International Shipping news, click here.

As the COVID-19 situation begins to stabilize in China, the impact of the virus on public health and economy is being felt in an increasing number of other countries in Asia, Europe and America. Local authorities and regions are increasingly applying restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the world, potentially impacting production and supply chains.

The U.S. government announced a 30-day travel ban from Europe, United Kingdom, and Ireland to the United States, as a precautionary measure against the further spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is important to note this measure only applies to the movement of people – and should not affect cargo transportation, however as a result of any pandemic, there will be some interruptions for both inbound and outbound cargo.

With that being said, Scarbrough, carriers, and other freight forwarders alike are doing their utmost to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains. Scarbrough has put together several of the messages we have received from ocean, air and rail carriers, as well as partners in global locations. For the most part, cargo is still moving as normal. Scarbrough’s team is equipped operationally to work remote from home should a social distancing mandate occur. If cargo is significantly impacted, clients will receive an update from their dedicated customer service representative just as normal operations occur.

A Compilation of Cargo Updates

Ocean Cargo – Inbound & Outbound USA
March 12, 2020

Most ocean carriers are stating they will remain fully operational. Vessels are sailing as scheduled (and this includes blank sailings) and all office employees are fully enabled to work remotely to secure business continuity.  All office locations are closely monitoring the local situation and committed to ensure the safety of employees whilst working towards mitigating any possible impact to supply chains. The carriers state they “continue uninterrupted to accept ocean and inland bookings, carrier haulage, equipment, warehousing and customs clearance.”

Cross Border Rail – Canada
March 12, 2020

The CN Rail is not experiencing interruptions to its service caused by COVID-19. However, in light of the evolving nature of COVID-19, CN’s employees will be relying more on electronic communications as opposed to in-person communications.

Air Cargo – Outbound USA
March 12, 2020

Some airlines have started to turn down bookings and quote requests due to the presidential announcement that took place on march 11, 2020. This includes passenger and cargo airlines alike. As a result, rates and backlogs of flights are starting to significantly increase. The story of supply and demand. At the moment, in order to serve our air export clients, we must quote on a case by case basis. We usually quote air freight within the same business day. However, due to the current situation, quote response time and cargo turn around may be delayed. For more information or to receive a rate request, please email us. [and mention you read this blog post!]

Air Cargo – Inbound USA
March 12, 2020

Lufthansa Group passenger airlines will continue to fly to the USA: Chicago, Newark, and Washington will remain in the program, and a very restricted flight schedule will be drawn up shortly. Freighters are not impacted by the coronavirus and will continue to operate. In addition, Lufthansa is planning to operate additional freighter aircrafts between Frankfurt and its main gateways. *Please note that Lufthansa will be implementing embargoes on AVI (pets only) and HUM shipments on freighter flights effective March 14, 2020. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Airfreight is confronting another looming capacity crunch as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. An American directive banning travel to the U.S. for most Europeans for 30 days is expected to snarl trans-Atlantic air cargo that moves in the bellies of passenger planes, driving up shipping costs and potentially delaying the delivery of everything from industrial parts and electronics to medical supplies, WSJ Logistics Report’s Jennifer Smith writes. Passenger planes carry more than 60% of air freight that moves between Europe and the U.S. Airlines already reeling as demand plummets and travel restrictions mount are now scrambling to meet the new requirements, which airfreight executives said will likely cause a severe drop in capacity as more flights are canceled. In China, service cuts have crimped trans-Pacific airfreight capacity even as auto makers and other companies pay extra to fly goods out after shipping lines canceled sailings.”

A Compilation of Specific Country Updates

A message from our partner on March 13, 2020

With the exception of the Wuhan district, domestic trucking is improving and the China market is stabilizing. 80% of factories are fully back to work, but most of the local shops and restaurants are still closed. All schools are still closed, but our local partner offices are fully operational and all are back to work. We are being told that all operations are normal in Vietnam and Taiwan, as well. The number of blank sailings from China is declining and demand is ramping back up. Most likely, a surge of shipments from China will occur in late April, so brace yourself for congestion, surcharges, and the like.

A message from our partner on March 12, 2020

Our German partner has stated that there has been no official statement from the airlines in regards to cargo moving out of Europe since President Trump’s announcement on restricting passenger travel from the European Union into the United States. However, we were told that Fedex had already cancelled all flights early March 12, 2020. A wide range of flight cancellations is to be expected even though cargo is still allowed.

In Germany the testing has worked very well. As of March 12, 2020, Germany as a whole had only 2,722 people with Covid-19 and only 3 deaths with a population in Germany of 83 Million. Germany has began to cancel sport and cultural events with more than 1,000 people. In areas with a higher risk, schools are also closing on a case by case scenario. The population is asked to avoid contact with people. In addition, many companies are also implementing their own codes of conduct.

Rail, air and seaports are operating as normal. The trucking power is enough and good.

“In general, Europe also has problems with the stormy weather it has had. Ports such as Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Rotterdam and Antwerp have had to stop the loading and unloading of ocean vessels, with a minimal delay on cargo. Moreover, a forecasted problem could be the big ocean vessels with more than 20,000 TEU each are not fully in schedule. The consequence is that worldwide a lot of containers, especially empty containers are blocked. Same on special equipment like reefer, flat racks or open top container. Next GRI was announced for April, space is tight and we recommend a booking with enough pre-notice. To make a long story short. Covid-19 change the world day by day, all other issues like equipment shortage, bad weather or vessel delays are coming back to normal soon.”

The Netherlands & Belgium
A message from our partner on March 13, 2020

Precautionary measures are taken by various governments to prevent further spread of COVID-19. As a result of the aforementioned measures, clients may be confronted with extra costs or possible shipment or communication delays due to a limited capacity of employees and equipment scarcity in the market. It goes without saying that we will inform you immediately in this case and we will do our utmost to minimize any inconvenience. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and inform you immediately of any new developments.

A message from our partner on March 17, 2020

Following our Prime Minister announcement last night, effective 18th March – 31st March 2020, there will be restriction of public movements and gatherings.  Please note that this is not a lockdown. Seaports, airports and the transportation and related sectors are all exempted from this restriction order. These includes the Malaysian Customs, port authorities and terminals, shipping companies, trucking companies, container depot, warehouses, freight forwarding services and all transport related services. So it is business as usual for us.

A message from our partner on March 13, 2020

Please be aware that in Italy and Europe we are dealing with a very difficult situation for the Coronavirus issue:
• In Italy, governmental authorities have mandated a lock down of all the activities throughout Italy. However, national and international transportation of goods is allowed under these strict restrictions.
Most of the staff is working from home at the moment and will most likely not return into the office until March 30, 2020. We will continue to monitor the situation and communicate if all activities are shut down including cargo transportation.
• Throughout the rest of Europe, it has become very difficult to proceed with shipments due to the great amount of flight cancellations and an increasingly rising airport congestion matter in European airports.

Greece and The Balkans
A message from our partner on March 12, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic has directly and adversely affected air transport into and out of Greece and The Balkans.

  • Airline employees have been instructed to work from home and in airline offices there are only security personnel. Subsequently, they do not respond to incoming phone calls concerning bookings, loadings, quotation requests and airfreight business queries in general.
  • Over the years, Greece and most of the Balkan states have been relying heavily on passenger aircraft schedules to have freight to/from the world moved. Almost 90% of airfreight had been moving in lower holds of passenger aircrafts.
  • Freighters had been accommodating the rest 10% either by direct calls from/to Athens or by offering land transportation for pre-carriage linking-up to other European airports including FRA, AMS, DRS, wherefrom freighter schedules to overseas destinations were available. It seems that this modus operandi, is not anymore possible.
  • At the moment, airfreight possibilities are limited to some eventual routes served erratically by freighters, whereas respective airfreight rates have gone sky-high.
  • Customs at airports are still in operation, although there have been discussions to possibly limit their staff exposure.
  • Official notifications coming from airlines announce cancellations of trips and routes.

A message from our partner on March 13, 2020

In Argentina we have the following scenario related to the COVID-19 pandemic today:

• Effective March 15, 2020, passenger flights to North America, Asia and Europe are going to be partial or totally cancelled. For cargo services, it is going to be restricted as per airlines consideration.  For Latin American, traffic it would be still work normally, we have to wait for next weeks.
• For ocean services, import and export services are working under standard bases.
• Currently, it is not easy to obtain booking space to/from any destination. Then we have to pay attention to our logistic strategy for the cargoes that are already dispatched by shippers. 
• Air / Ocean / Truck Customs services is working under normal terms. Operations are reduced in an estimation of 60% for aircraft and 20% for the others. It is expected to get notifications about their services at Customs during the next days.

Local situation:
• March 12, 2020 was the first president conference on this issue. Ministry of Public Health is working on this pandemia since it was public known. As general information, we have official 40 cases of affected people and 10 new registrations.  The controls are going to be harder at borders to restrict/prevent the access of infected people. Mass public events are suspended until new instructions.

A message from our partner on March 18, 2020

● Industrial Zone,starting from street 1 to street 32 shall be closed for a period of 2 weeks renewable, for the safety of the residents in the region.
● All shops and bank branches in malls and shopping centers shall be closed, excluding food outlets and pharmacies.
● Barber shops and beauty salons shall be closed, including their home services.
● Hotel health club activities shall be stopped until further notice.
● All Citizens coming to the State of Qatar from any destination in the world are quarantined immediately after their arrival for a period of 14 days.
● It is important for the people of Qatar to stay at home and not leave the house except for necessity, and maintaining social distancing whenever possible, especially with the elderly and people suffering from chronic diseases.This is to ensure everyone’s safety and security.
● Social gatherings must be crucially avoided in the State of Qatar within the next two weeks.The role of individuals in spreading awareness and canceling public occasions is in the best interest of the public.
However the custom clearance process of cargoes are normal. 

A message from our partner on March 18, 2020

Please advise all members that over in Indonesia,that there is no lockdown and we are still open as usual
for transportation services,port/customs clearance and general forwarding. 

South Korea
A message from our partner on March 18, 2020

Here are some updates on current situation in Korea.

Even though the pace of daily new infections has shown signs of slowing, health authorities are still on “red alert”, the highest alert level, to halt cluster infections across the nation. On Sunday, the government designated Daegu and three other hard-hit areas as “special disaster zones,” allowing it to subsidize about half of recovery spending and exempt people there from taxes and utility fees. According to the education ministry, it will be postponing the new school year for another two weeks. Under this measure, the new school year at kindergartens and elementary, middle and high schools nationwide will begin on April 6, five weeks later compared with normal years. 

Logistics sectors are also under heavy influences due to this unprecedented crisis. Carriers are rescheduling their vessel operations due to a drop in production caused by the outbreak and we are experiencing lots of delays, skips and space shortages. 

Since most shipping lines have applied shorter work time and teleworking, restrictions are being made in the working process. All terminals and depots are open and operational. However, some trucker shortage issue is emerging due to the outbreak.

For ocean shipment, rates have increased, space is limited and containers are rolling. And the shortage of equipment at Busan port is being reported. We suggest you to book at least three weeks prior to cargo ready date to ensure space and equipment available.

Most airlines have suspended passenger flights departing from Korea. Only a few Middle Eastern airlines such as QR, EY, EK are providing both passenger flights and cargo flights from Korea at the moment. Overall, we are under a lot of restrictions on flight schedules and freights.

A message from our partner on March 18, 2020

Our government has placed the entire Luzon mainland on an Enhanced Community Quarantine. Manila and Clark airports will be closed effective Mar. 20 to April 14, 2020. Ocean traffic both export and imports will continue to be open with the Bureau of Customs to work on a 4 day week. Import and Export oriented industries and manufacturing of basic goods subject to the condition of strict social distancing measures, shall remain operational. Mass gatherings prohibited with public transport suspended. A work from home arrangement shall be implemented except for the Police Force, Military, Medical and emergency frontline services. Conditions will be reviewed on a daily basis. Cebu, Davao will operate be open and operate business as usual.

More specific country news to be continued…

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?

According to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website, “there is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged COVID-19 and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are betacoronaviruses with their origins in bats. While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we can use the information gained from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.”

To view number of people infected with COVID-19 by state, click here.

What to Do

Please try to understand that in this situation, future surcharges, transit times and delays cannot be controlled.  As stated before, some of Scarbrough’s local partners have mentioned this epidemic is one of the worst they have seen in their lives.  Scarbrough will continue to monitor the situation, while keeping our partners and friends located around the world in our thoughts.  Scarbrough will send updates on your cargo if it is significantly affected.  If you have any specific questions, please contact your direct customer service representative.

Most Importantly, Take Care of Yourself for the Good of Others

To view the most up-to-date information on cases in the United States, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the meantime, follow these precautions in order to avoid catching the virus or more importantly passing along what could be a fatal virus to someone else:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
    Hint: At Scarbrough, we sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song while washing our hands.

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About Scarbrough

The Scarbrough Group of Companies, headquartered in Kansas City with local presence in every major port in the world, is a complete international and domestic supply chain service provider, offering U.S., Mexican, and Canadian Customs brokerage, Import & Export Transportation Solutions, Domestic brokerage and asset-based trucking, Warehouse fulfillment and distribution services, Trade Compliance Consulting, Large Equipment and Project Cargo moves, as well as Parcel Audit Savings.  Scarbrough is widely known for its trade experts, training, personalized customer service, customized solutions, and data analytics tools.  Since 1984, Scarbrough has continued to satisfy its clients by following its motto on a daily basis: “It is our job to make your job easier.”  Moreover, our team of experts is available at your disposal.  We offer free consultations on any topic from supply chain optimization and duty savings opportunities to the basics, helping to guide new importers and exporters as they jump into the world of global trade.  Contact us now.