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

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.
07 Apr 2021
Port executives say the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex has sufficient terminal capacity to handle projected cargo volumes until late in the decade.
05 Apr 2021
US trucking companies reversed a three-month decline in jobs in March, but they haven’t escaped the employment crater created by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
29 Mar 2021
A severe shortage of railcars in Los Angeles-Long Beach is causing rail container dwell times to double, which is further stressing already-congested terminals and inhibiting the ability of the terminals to ship imports to inland rail hubs.
25 Mar 2021
Global on-time vessel performance improved marginally in February, but reliability in the Asia-North America trades continued to slide, hitting new record lows for the month.
15 Mar 2021
Yet another month of double-digit growth in US imports from Asia foreshadows the operational challenges North American ports will face in the coming months.
09 Mar 2021
UP will assess a first-ever March surcharge of $250 on “low-volume shippers” in California effective March 21, just days after an announcement that will kick more US shippers into that category.
08 Mar 2021
US retailers project that continued growth in on-line shopping, as well as increasing in-store shopping, will power double-digit increases in imports through June.
04 Mar 2021
A group of 24 senators wrote to the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) in support of its investigation into accusations carriers have been denying export bookings, thereby injuring the US agricultural sector
04 Mar 2021
Industry analyst Lars Jensen says container carriers have finally figured out how to prevent the volatile pricing swings of past years through capacity management and right-sizing of vessels for various trade lanes.
02 Mar 2021
The opening of a large vaccination site at the Port of Los Angeles is expected to contribute immediately to greater labor availability in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex.
02 Mar 2021
Knight Swift CEO Dave Jackson tells JOC’s virtual TPM21 conference that trailer pools, agility, and long-term thinking is the way carriers and shippers can reduce the wild swings seen in trucking rates since 2017.
25 Feb 2021
A significant drop in vessel schedule reliability in the eastbound trans-Pacific in January sends an ominous warning to ports about continued congestion in their international supply chains.
24 Feb 2021
Pacific Northwest ports are contending with late vessel arrivals and increased container dwell times due to weather events and strong Asian import volumes.
18 Feb 2021
Vaccinations of longshoremen in Los Angeles-Long Beach have begun, but since the ILWU and employers do not control the supplies, administration of the vaccines is erratic.
18 Feb 2021
The “peak” shipping season in the eastbound trans-Pacific began last summer and continued right through January, with no significant drop in US imports from Asia in sight.
17 Feb 2021
The Federal Maritime Commission will take a deep look into the detention and demurrage practices in Southern California and New York and New Jersey, requiring ocean carriers and maritime terminal operators to answer questions about their policies related to importers and exporters.
16 Feb 2021
Logistical challenges throughout the supply chain from the interior of the country to the seaports are a severe limitation on US exports, commodity shippers say, as total outbound US shipments fell 8.1 percent last year from 2019.
11 Feb 2021
Volume has jumped more than 20 percent for three consecutive months in Savannah, which has slowed the supply chain for some shippers but not nearly as much as in Southern California.
10 Feb 2021
Trans-Pacific carriers seeking relief from congestion in Southern California are approaching Oakland and Seattle-Tacoma as alternatives for first-call inbound services.
10 Feb 2021
Maersk expanded deeper into landside logistics during 2020, strongly boosting its non-ocean revenue during a highly profitable year.
08 Feb 2021
Retailers project record year-over-year import volumes each month through June as US consumers continue to shop with no end in sight.
08 Feb 2021
If carriers are successful in reducing the number of days shippers can hold containers before being charged detention fees, some shippers may have to adjust warehouse operations so they can unload and return containers to carriers more quickly.
05 Feb 2021
Seeing glimpses of improved productivity, terminal operators in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach predict a return to some sense of normalcy between April and June.
04 Feb 2021
Under pressure from an unexpected second-half surge in demand, US importers turned to core production sources in China as the urgency of not missing orders outweighed additional tariff and manufacturing costs.
29 Jan 2021
The container shipping industry is in the midst of yet another predictable cycle in which supply chains are upended by unpredictable external forces, relationships between carriers and shippers are tested.
28 Jan 2021
After a sluggish start to the year, US imports from Asia came roaring back in the second half, with an even higher concentration than usual flowing through the largest container gateways.
26 Jan 2021
Hapag-Lloyd’s advisory to customers about de-facto blank sailings in February due to port delays could be followed by similar announcements from other carriers.
22 Jan 2021
Despite an acceleration in COVID-19 cases among longshoremen in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, waterfront employers say there are enough general dockworkers to handle near-record container volumes, although a shortage of trained equipment operators is a problem.
19 Jan 2021
Import volumes have remained strong into the new year and may be accelerating, with some saying January’s imports will be even higher than December’s.
15 Jan 2021
A chassis shortage has caused some containers to idle at BNSF’s ramp in St. Paul, Minnesota, an offshoot of the congestion in Chicago, but not as disruptive given the relative small rail volume in the Twin Cities.
14 Jan 2021
Union Pacific Railroad’s decision to rescind record-breaking surcharges on the West Coast beginning Jan. 17 will lower prices for importers moving cargo through Los Angeles.
12 Jan 2021
Truck turn times and container dwell times deteriorated further in Los Angeles-Long Beach in December, with even the best-performing terminals struggling to handle the volumes.
11 Jan 2021
DCLI ran out of chassis last week in Chicago, and cargo owners are frustrated because Union Pacific will not release their containers to draymen with trucker-owned chassis.
11 Jan 2021
While signing so-called early-bird contracts is not a new phenomenon in the eastbound trans-Pacific, this year is different because the early signings are more frequent and driven more by space guarantees than freight rate considerations.
06 Jan 2021
The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the US is being slowed not by transportation issues, but by “last-mile” inefficiencies in many states, especially a lack of personnel, funding, and necessary planning.


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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