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Welcome to the holiday rush! We typically do not equate the holiday season to the circus. Still, with international shipping this season, you could make some fair comparisons, especially on shipments out of Asia, where getting space is similar to jumping through flaming hoops or swinging on a high trapeze.

Ocean Freight Situation & Challenges

Many steamship lines are currently facing a severe 40′ container shortage, which is expected to continue even beyond the holidays. The booking is made, the much fought for space is granted, the trucker goes to get the empty container to load the goods, only to find there is no equipment at all available to pull for loading. Bam, the booking is lost, and shipment rolled, just like that. Yikes – we just missed that flaming hoop.

Vessel space is also in short supply due to many lines continuing to pull blank sailings frequently going into November and December. This is the apparent situation expected to sustain through Chinese New Year (CNY) early next year. Shipment is booked, equipment found, loading is in place. But suddenly, out of nowhere, the steamship line informs that space is no longer available for the intended vessel, and they proceed to roll every booking to the next vessel. Only that next vessel is 14 days out. Double yikes – no net below on that trapeze swing.

As though these above-mentioned juggling acts were not enough, The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association reported that during September, 21.2% of import containers into Los Angeles & Long Beach ports waited more than five days for handling, compared to 10.5% in August.

Active Ocean Solutions

So, what can we do to fit all the clowns in the one clown car and keep the bear on the unicycle? Here are some excellent solutions and helpful ideas.

First, we can consider the possibility of using either a 40’ NOR (non-operating reefer container), which is only about 10cbm less than of a regular 40’ or a 20’ container instead. These types of containers are in better supply than standard 40’ & 40’HC equipment. This might not be ideal, but it could mean a much sooner and more stable loading and transit time.

Secondly, booking in advance is very important. If we can reserve vessel space 10 to 14 days prior to cargo ready date, much better results can be achieved.

Lastly, if it is urgent and is a must move now situation, there are still options available! Although premium pricing is unavoidable, there are still possibilities we can offer, thanks to our excellent relations and negotiations with specific steamship lines. I like to think of this as the circus strong man doing some heavy lifting! These premium options also create mitigation of delays at Los Angeles / Long Beach port terminal with expedited handling at arrival as well, keeping shipments balanced and moving like an expert tightrope walker!

Air Freight Situation & Challenges

In the airfreight market, although flights are moving, it is clear there are still currently far fewer transatlantic and transpacific passenger flights to utilize for cargo options, creating a large strain on cargo aircraft. As we get closer to the Christmas holiday, airfreight rates are expected to continue to soar like the daredevil being shot out of the circus cannon and flights packed up like proverbial Santa sleighs.

Rates are currently changing about every 3 or 4 days, and space continues to get tighter almost daily. After checking airfreight rates on any given day, the ringmaster goes back to book, only to find that flight is full, and rates have, in fact, changed within only a few hours. And so, the bearded lady just sang on that one.

Active Air Solutions

So, what can we as lion tamers and acrobats do functionally to keep the monkeys in the barrel and the elephants from stampeding? Here are the answers for the best outcome.

First, whenever possible, we can make sure airfreight shipments are packed within size limits that make both passenger and cargo aircrafts available as possible options. The more flight options, the better the ability to get that shipment moving successfully.

Secondly, book in advance! Early, early, early – advance booking at about 7 to 10 days ahead is the best possible way to ensure a great outcome. Sometimes it is not possible to know the exact size and weight of the shipment so far ahead, but even if it is necessary to estimate the anticipated freight, it can be a certain difference.

Regardless of what lions, tigers, or bears the circus brings, you can be confident that here at CargoTrans, we are diligently working to make your shipment move as successful as possible in every way.

If you have concerns or questions on how this could affect your shipping plans, please reach out to our expert team. We are happy and ready to help.