Shipping Tips & Solutions

How to Keep Your Shipments Moving Despite the Coronavirus

Gayatri Bhaumik

by Gayatri Bhaumik

On 2020 M02 28

by Gayatri Bhaumik

The spread of the coronavirus through Asia and beyond has had a huge impact on the global shipping industry. But, there are still plenty of ways to help your business navigate this trying time by streamlining your coronavirus supply chain.

At Easyship, we want to make sure all our customers get through this uncertain period in the best possible shape by continuing to provide a range of tips and solutions. So, if you’ve been trying to figure out how to keep your supply chains moving and continue fulfilling orders in the midst of the coronavirus, we’re helping you out by explaining exactly how the coronavirus has affected logistics and making a few suggestions for how you can stay in the game.

Not to sound too doom and gloom, but it’s hard to understate the gravity of the coronavirus supply chain impact. Shipping lines are running more blank sailings - Maersk cut more than 50 sailings - while for air freight, couriers have reduced capacity (especially for Mainland China). Meanwhile, with a number of airlines - including British Airways, Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Singapore Airlines - reducing over 90% of their passenger routes to and from Mainland China through March, at the earliest, commercial cargo availability is also significantly lower.

Impact of Coronavirus on Ocean Freight

8 Things to Know About Ocean Freight

  1. Maersk and CMA CGM are operating blank sailings
  2. Hapag-Lloyd is operating as normal
  3. Rates are down for Asia-US Transpacific Eastbound; bookings should be made in advance
  4. Rates are steady for Europe-US Transatlantic Westbound; very low capacity - book well in advance
  5. Rates are also down for Asia-Europe; low capacity due to increased blank sailings
  6. Certain countries - including Singapore and Australia - are keeping ships that have been to China in a holding pattern until the crew has been declared virus-free
  7. Other countries - such as South Korea - are imposing stringent screening measures
  8. BDI (Baltic Dry Index) - which reflects the daily price of moving goods like coal and wheat by sea - has dropped to the lowest rates since 2016

Things to Know About Air Freight

  • Commercial capacity is down over 90% with many airlines cutting passenger flights to China
  • FedEx Express is maintaining service in China, but shipments are being affected
  • China’s couriers have regained over 40% of normal delivery capacity and are using non-contact delivery methods
  • UPS expects continued delays and has made China flights voluntary for its pilots
  • DHL has currently suspended collection, delivery, and warehousing in Hubei province

4 Strategies for Successfully Maintaining Your Supply Chain

Despite the coronavirus’s impact on the global logistics industry, increased rates, and lower capacity, you can still get your shipments where they need to go. It just requires a little more effort. Here are a few ideas to help you continue with business as usual (or at least, as close as possible).

 Creating supply chain strategies on a laptop following coronavirus crisis

1. Communicate often - and with good information

The most important part of navigating all this uncertainty is making sure everyone knows what’s happening, at all times. If you can keep everyone happy by being proactive with solutions, you’ve won half the battle.

  • Talk to your suppliers early about any changing production requirements or expected delays
  • Let your clients or customers know of any potential problems or delays as early as possible
  • Update your financials frequently and share these with stakeholders
To do list to protect your supply chain against coronavirus outbreak

2. Plan ahead - well ahead

It’s not always easy, but if you’re going to get out of this unscathed, you need to plan carefully for the months ahead. And don’t forget that a little flexibility will go a long way.

  • You know that freight is operating at reduced capacity - book shipments a month to two weeks in advance to ensure they aren’t delayed
  • Check if you can get free port storage with your shipping line if necessary - and get everything in writing so it can’t be disputed later
  • Book express services if you have urgent shipments - these are operating almost normally
  • Gauge what demand has been like over the past month - and adjust your supplies going forward accordingly
Man using a laptop to budget shipping solutions amidst coronavirus

3. Don’t forget to budget

If you’re trying to get your shipments out - especially from China - you’re very likely going to be pushed to find alternative solutions. That could mean indirect routes and premium services...anything that will get the goods where they need to be. Even the big companies aren’t immune to this - Jaguar announced that it was shipping car parts from China in suitcases on commercial flights to maintain production in the UK - and that solution will only tide them over until March!

Of course, all of this means money. No matter how you look at it, your shipping solutions are going to require an extra dose of dollars to get the job done. Yes, it will impact your bottom line, but with some careful planning, you can weather the hit (and stay in business).

Organize your shipment to China with the Easyship Dashboard

4. Easyship can help!

Don’t forget, if you have operations in China and are struggling to manage your coronavirus supply chain, Easyship can help. Trucking between Mainland China and Hong Kong is currently operating at 70%-80% capacity. That means you can send your goods to Hong Kong by truck, then use our local warehouses and courier services to ship to other countries. It’s an added cost - and it still may take a little time - but your goods will get where they need to go.

Looking forward, it’s important to remember that when supply operations begin to open up again and return to normal, shipping will continue to face challenges. In particular, prices are expected to rise as carriers work through an unprecedented backlog of shipping volume. You should plan ahead for this, too, so you’re not caught out when the time comes.

Some Final Words

Things look pretty grim at the moment, and certainly, the coronavirus supply chain effects have been deep. But it’s important to remember that the world has been through this before. SARS, MERS, H1N1...they all had an impact, but we bounced back from it every time. Things will return to normal at some stage - it’s just going to take some time. In the meanwhile, a little patience and sly thinking will go a long way.

Click here for Easyship’s daily updates on how the coronavirus is affecting logistics.