Why Your China Freight Shipping Delays?
Lots of cargo shipments move from China every single day. There’s always someone waiting on the other side for the shipment to arrive.
Estimated transit time is meant to be as accurate as possible, so that the consignee can know when to expect their cargo and when to arrange a pick up. If it does not arrive as planned, this can create problems both for the shipper and the consignee.
Everyone doesn’t like delay, but when it comes ocean freight transportation, chances are big that you will have some sort of delay at some point that will be completely beyond your control and may be beyond your supplier’s control as well.
As an importer, you hope to know why your shipping delays. Here’s a list of main reasons, some of them you can avoid.
Before the vessel departure
1. No spaces of the scheduled vessel.
This happens from time to time, especially when holiday shipping or busy season shipping (continuous rise in freight cost period).
Solution: Plan ahead and book your space two weeks earlier before the production done.
Your action: If you buy fob and choose us as your forwarding agent, it’s always the right time to contact us with your specific shipping needs. Your local freight forwarder can be your partner, not just a container ticket seller.
2. Can’t deliver your goods to the port before the cut off time.
For FCL, the consignor usually pick up the container and load it by themselves in their facility, then deliver the full container back to CY (container yard) or CFS (container freight station).
For LCL, the consignor need to deliver the shipment to the warehouse of the forwarder for consolidation.
No matter it’s FCL or LCL, there’s always a Cut-Off date issued by the carrier. Missing the date means missing the scheduled vessel.
Solution: Pick up the empty container as early as possible (7 days at most in China), and make all the arrangements for land transportation earlier.
Your action: Make sure you have made it clear with your supplier, then trust them.
3. Customs declaration issue before the cut off time.
3.1 Improper categorization of HS code
As you may know, the suppliers can get tax refund from the government based on the HS code of the products for most items. The tax refund rate vary from 0 to 17%. And because of that, some suppliers will use wrong HS code when conducting customs clearance, just to get higher tax rebate rate.
If the customs find it out, they will detain the products until the supplier correct the HS code and pay penalty.
3.2 Intelligence property rights protection
If the product has brand, the supplier will be requested to submit an authorization letter from the brand owner. This process will cost long time if not prepared accordingly.
Solution: Make sure every paperwork needed is correct and in time.
Your action: Ensure that you are working with factories that are used to “export” processes and use a reliable forwarder who knows the processes well & ideally has experience in your business field.
4. The vessel left late due to weather.
Your action: Get the information as early as possible, then notice every party involved at your side.
Except the fourth vessel itself reason, you can combat all other factors. The easiest way is to plan ahead and book in advance and drop off your cargo as soon as you are allowed to gate it in.
Work closely with your supplier and your cargo agent to make the shipment as efficient as possible.
During the transit
The main reason for cargo delays during the process is that the vessel changed the routing and will make additional stops.
Even no route changes, the actual ETA is about 1.1 days later than schedule for most carriers. According to the latest research from Drewry, the average on-time rates of container carriers are 64%, and Maersk Line is the NO. 1 with about 80% punctuality rate.
Nothing you can do about this, even including your agent. But the freight forwarder can keep touch with the carrier, and let you know the adjusted ETA as soon as possible.
After the transit
When the steamship crossed the ocean, and were arriving at the destination port, trouble still happens. Such as the latest West Coast dockworkers dispute.
This kind of port delays can be avoided by choosing a different destination earlier. It may result higher price, but the time saved are more valuable in some cases.
If you import from China regularly, there’s a good chance you encounter a China sourcing or shipping delay upto 2 weeks in February or October.
However, most of these delays are in fact not due to any lack of attention or negligence from the supplier, but rather miscommunications and a culture gap between China and foreign, which can usually be attributed to Chinese holidays.
There are many various holidays in China, usually one day or three days break. These holiday have little effect on shipping. But you have to pay attention to following 2 major & long holidays.
- National Holiday (1 week, Oct 1 ~ Oct 7)
- Chinese New Year (abt 3 weeks, lunar calendar)
Chinese National Holiday is a good time for travel. If you contact your freight forwarder or your supplier, there might be a delay response.
Chinese New Year can last 3 weeks totally. The country as a whole can experience massive migrations. For many hard-working people, this is the only break through the whole year. No matter how far between where he/she works at and where his/her family located, he/she has to get home and enjoy the holiday with family.
Though the official vacation is usually 7~10 days, you don’t want to schedule any import during these upto 3 weeks. After all, there’s only once a year for family reunion for many many Chinese people.
Here’s the shipping situation:
1. Too much cargo to ship
Booking container space is very difficult in Jan, and the freight cost is relatively high, because everyone wants their goods departure before the New Year.
2. Too less cargo to ship
Booking container space is so easy in March, and the freight cost is relatively low, because the manufacturers need time for production after the New Year.
Please note this holiday operates on the lunar calendar and thus change from year to year, usually on the end of Jan and early Feb. (last year was 01/31/2014, this year 02/19/2015)
Solution: Try to avoid these 2 holidays, or fully prepared for the long break
Your action: Get a timetable from your supplier, because different situations vary from different factories.
What should do when your shipping delays?
Scheduling enough time to get your product through customs and onto a ship can be tricky business. Plan ahead as far as you can and work with suppliers in China to constantly update the final manufacturing completion date accordingly.
When your delivery delays, the best thing you can do is be patient, and communicate consistently with your freight forwarder. Make sure you get all the information available, so that you can communicate honestly and directly with your production, customers, retailers or whomever the delay may concern.
Even if you arrange everything ahead and have a plan, sometimes your shipment will be delayed, so be sure to add some buffer days into your supply chain timeline.
CFC News - Aug. 20, 2023
Though transpacific rates have climbed 13% to the West Coast and 9% to the East Coast since mid-July, these increases are likely more a function of stricter reductions in capacity than of surging volumes, as carriers work to reduce over-supplied fleets.
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