Coronavirus Effect on Supply Chains

Coronavirus Effect on Supply Chains

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is upending global container volume demand and rippling through containerized supply chains.  That's sending shockwaves to all freight transport modes, from trucking to air cargo. 

The widening impact COVID-19 is having on retail and manufacturing demand is creating the need for two importing speeds. Cargo owners such as apparel and automotive importers want to delay receiving goods for now-closed brick-and-mortar stores and production lines, whereas importers shipping personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential household consumer goods want them faster.  Against that backdrop, carriers, forwarders, port authorities, and marine terminals are warning of a cargo bottleneck if more Western importers fail to pick up containers when they arrive, causing port congestion and inland equipment shortages that will slow down the broader supply chain.

Bookmark this special page for regular updates on how the industry is responding.

News & Analysis

29 Jul 2021
The backlog of vessels outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is rapidly approaching levels seen during last year’s peak season due to continued explosive imports and inland rail bottlenecks.
27 Jul 2021
Port congestion, poor ocean shipping reliability, and container scarcity are compounding higher input costs for raw materials, US retailers are telling investors as they warn of increased shipper pressures through the year.
27 Jul 2021
Expectations are that reliability is likely to fall further in the coming months as carriers add new services and deploy extra-loader vessels to meet peak season demand that arrives amid the never-ending onslaught of imports from Asia.
14 Jul 2021
After several months of improving metrics in Los Angeles-Long Beach, key indicators of productivity began to slide in June as vessel bunching, container dwell times, and chassis street dwell times worsened.
12 Jul 2021
Terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are bracing for spike in imports from China later this month as a backlog of US-bound cargo built up during the recent COVID-19 outbreak there arrives on the West Coast.
08 Jul 2021
After scrambling for vessel space and paying record spot rates in the second quarter, retailers and other importers are being warned by carriers and forwarders to expect even higher rates and tighter space constraints in the third quarter.
30 Jun 2021
Retailers welcome new Asia-US services by Maersk and Cosco/OOCL, but expect minimal impact on the huge supply/demand imbalance in the trade.
25 Jun 2021
Vessel on-time performance to the West and East coasts improved slightly in May for the second consecutive month, although it was still the worst May ever recorded in the Asia-North America trade.
24 Jun 2021
The plight of one BCO on the hook for huge storage fees is familiar to fellow importers struggling to access thousands of containers at Union Pacific Railroad’s Global IV terminal in Joliet, Illinois.
23 Jun 2021
A lack of truck drivers and equipment, not a cooler economy, is behind a recent drop in for-hire trucking tonnage and spot market volume, as demand overshoots supply chain capacity.
22 Jun 2021
Rising freight rates and prices for raw industrial materials have shippers scrambling to rework budgets and adjust procurement strategies and project schedules.
18 Jun 2021
Chassis providers are struggling to provide equipment for ocean containers in the US Midwest and Pacific Northwest as shippers hold onto chassis excessively even more frequently than earlier this year, according to importers and TRAC Intermodal.
18 Jun 2021
US imports from Asia grew faster at West Coast ports than at East and Gulf coast ports in January through May as carriers launched a half-dozen new trans-Pacific services to handle the continuing boom in imports from Asia.
15 Jun 2021
In what is usually the slowest period of the year, US imports from Asia in the first five months of the year hit a new high-water mark, signaling to ports that the congestion issues they have faced may get worse as the peak season approaches.
15 Jun 2021
Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad are having trouble getting containers to shippers, in part because their supply of 53-foot chassis is very low.
15 Jun 2021
Carriers posted an unprecedented level of profitability in the first quarter, as container shipping companies capitalized on a market in which the supply-demand balance is firmly in their favor.
14 Jun 2021
Current conditions in the trans-Pacific trade, with strong demand and severe capacity shortages leading to hyper-charged freight rates, are temporary, but the question is: how temporary?
14 Jun 2021
Trans-Pacific carriers are expected to follow their June 1 general rate increase with another on June 15 as huge demand for space and increasing costs for equipment and trucking at Asian load ports continue unfettered.
07 Jun 2021
Two more carriers follow Zim in suspending some trans-Pacific calls in Oakland until congestion issues and vessel bunching are eased.
07 Jun 2021
US retailers have upgraded their forecast for monthly imports through September and project continued international supply-chain congestion, possibly through the end of the year.
07 Jun 2021
Top trucking and intermodal providers are raising penalties on shippers who do not promptly unload and return 53-foot trailers or containers.
04 Jun 2021
Non-vessel operating common carriers handled a majority of US imports from Asia through the first four months of the year as carriers limited bookings to their steady customers in the booming eastbound trans-Pacific.
03 Jun 2021
Double-digit year-over-year increases in volume and revenue at Old Dominion Freight Line set a benchmark for US economic and LTL sector growth since the worst point of the recession.
02 Jun 2021
The operational challenges for container shipping have now persisted for half a year, and they are seemingly nowhere nearer to getting resolved. If anything, they mainly appear to be getting worse.
26 May 2021
Retailers should expect vessel space in Asia to get even tighter in June as advance bookings show continued strong demand for imports in the US, according to an industry analyst.
21 May 2021
South Korean container lines HMM and SM Line will inject more than 82,000 TEU of monthly capacity on the trans-Pacific and Asia–Europe trades via extra loaders and the accelerated deployment of newbuild ships on existing loops.
21 May 2021
Almost every performance indicator in Los Angeles-Long Beach is trending positively, but increasing rail container dwell times could threaten the terminals’ ability to handle peak season volumes if the backlog of rail containers isn’t moved soon.
18 May 2021
Although US imports from Asia in April did not match the impressive volume recorded in March, it was nevertheless the busiest April on record and the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year import increases since last July.
17 May 2021
The tight vessel capacity situation US retailers face on vessels leaving Asia today will likely continue at least into July, possibly running straight through to an early — and strong — projected back-to-school shopping season.
11 May 2021
Maersk says labor scarcity in India amid COVID-19 lockdowns – particularly truck drivers – has begun to crimp cargo flow out of some port and inland locations even as demand remains relatively steady.
07 May 2021
The upward revision to US import projections for peak shipping season sends a message to shippers and ports that tight vessel capacity and marine terminal congestion issues are far from over.
27 Apr 2021
Vessel on-time performance improved slightly to the US West Coast in March and slipped a bit to the East Coast as vessel bunching continues to cause delays in ports on both coasts.
21 Apr 2021
Midsize shippers say securing sufficient vessel space for their increased imports is more important than the higher freight rates in this year’s eastbound trans-Pacific service contract negotiations.
16 Apr 2021
Double- and triple-digit year-over-year increases in imports from Asia at the top US gateways speak to the issues of vessel bunching and congested marine terminals at some of the busiest ports.
16 Apr 2021
The ILWU and their employers have made significant progress in increasing the labor supply in Los Angeles-Long Beach, but hiring and training will continue indefinitely amid growing cargo volumes and a continued shortage of skilled workers.
07 Apr 2021
Retailers predict US imports will continue to be at record or near-record levels at least through August as consumers have plenty of cash to spend on merchandise.


With so many products currently subject to Trump administration tariffs, a huge portion of entries from China will not be eligible for CBP's recently announced COVID-19-related duty deferral program.

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