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5 uncommon reasons for sea shipping delays from China

by Ashish Monga 

In the first part of this article, I looked at 5 common reasons for sea shipping delays from China.

Here are 5 less-common reasons that can lead to delays with your shipments. Many of these are factors that can’t really be planned for.

6. Problems with the Vessel

Any technical glitches with the vessel will often delay the shipment. In most cases, with today’s advances in technology, these glitches can be quickly fixed and the delays are usually not significant, however major problems with the vessel do happen every now & then and can have an impact on shipment schedule.

Advice: Pray & hope for the best.

7. Over-Booking of the Vessel

With all the advances in technology, we would think over-booking should be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, over-booking of vessels happens all the time but especially during holiday seasons such as the Chinese New Year or Pre-Christmas shipments.

AdviceAvoid peak seasons if possible. If you have to book during busy times, avoid smaller-less known shipping lines. They tend to have lower freight rates but during peak seasons they tend to struggle more than the bigger lines as they have limited resources, whereas bigger lines can divert vessels from their other trade routes if required.

8. Port Strikes

Strikes by port workers often take place due to disputes with port operators & when this happens things come to a complete halt on the ports. This has never really been a big issue in China itself but can often be an issue at a lot of destination ports and happens everywhere from the US West Coast to India.

Photo: David Mcnew/Getty Images

When strikes take place, it not only delays current shipments but also pushes up the freight rates to that destination.

Advice: If a strike happens while your goods are on-board there is little that can be done. However, if you are aware of impending strikes at your loading or destination port, it may be worth considering using an alternative port in some cases depending on the feasibility of domestic trucking costs.       

The Chinese New Year cause great delays when it comes to logistics. Click To Tweet

9. Public Holidays

Public Holidays in China work a bit differently than a lot of other countries. There are at least 2 long holidays, i.e. the National Day & the dreaded holiday for importers, i.e. the Chinese New Year. Both these are at least 7 days long with the Chinese New Year having a major impact on cargo movement.

It is common practice in China to club holidays with weekends or rearrange weekends, so most holidays are at least three days long. Some companies work on Sunday’s to accommodate this.

Advice: Normally for the shorter holidays the impact is limited and only very unorganised suppliers end up missing cut-off dates due to not planning well for these holidays.

However, there are plenty of unorganised suppliers in China & therefore it is a good idea to keep abreast of any upcoming holidays before your shipment is due & plan accordingly with your supplier or forwarder.

This link gives a detailed breakdown of the upcoming holidays in China.

10.  Re-routing & Additional Stops

Shipping vessels often have to re-route for all kinds of reasons or make additional stops at ports which were not part of the original schedule. Some bizarre reasons for rerouting can include, protecting Marine life or protecting the ship against pirates.

11. Bonus Tip: Container unloaded at incorrect destination

I know this was supposed to be 10, but just trying to over-deliver ;). Containers do get unloaded at the wrong destination ports often and this is one of those annoying things that happens more than it should and that you can do nothing about.

53 ships were hijacked in 2010 and 1181 seafarers captured - International Chamber of Commerce Click To Tweet

12. Pirate Hijacking

Finally, this one cannot be missed. Pirate hijacking is for real and has been growing in the last few years. According to International Chamber of Commerce, 53 ships were hijacked in 2010 and 1181 seafarers captured, i.e. the highest number in any recorded year. Majority of these hijackings have been happening off the coast of Somalia.

Have you experienced delays to your shipments due to any reasons not covered here? I would love to hear your experiences.

Ashish Monga is the founder of IMEX Sourcing Services, a sourcing & Quality Control company helping people importing from China manage their costs & risks as well as develop new products. Ashish also does consultancy work in the field of international trade & import risk management. He is also the author of The Sourcing Blog, a blog focused on sourcing advice for importing from China.

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