US Shipping Industry Operational
Despite the continuous stream of travel restrictions and lockdown orders around the world, the US shipping industry continues to operate at near-full capacity. Sea ports, rail ramps, and over-the-road carriers remain open for business, adapting to challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak. The port of Houston briefly closed two terminals late Wednesday evening (March 18) after discovering a case of COVID-19 in an employee, and has already reopened as of Friday morning. Vessel traffic there will resume at 7:00pm Friday the 20th. Some US ports are reporting reduced hours of operation due to lower volume of oceanfreight. These ports will ramp up working hours as demand begins to recover.
Additionally, the movement of goods continues in states like California and New York, where the respective governors have issued Shelter in Place lockdown orders. At the northern US-Canada border, cargo continues to flow despite travel bans between the countries. A similar order is expected soon at the southern US-Mexico border, with the same allowance for the flow of goods and essential travel. OTS recommends shippers contact their vendors early to find out about any hourly or personnel changes that may affect their supply chains.
Travel Restrictions Challenge Airfreight Industry
On Thursday, March 19 the Indian central government announced a travel ban blocking all airline services into the country for a period of one week. Beginning the morning of March 22, no flights will be allowed to enter until the morning of March 29. This ban will severely limit the availability of cargo space on exports from India as governments try to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The situation is expected to develop similar to what we saw in Asia and Europe- demand for space will far exceed availability as services become restricted, causing rates to climb quickly in response. Some major carriers, including Delta, have begun deploying passenger aircraft to ease the capacity restraints. These aircraft will not be allowed to carry passengers due to government restrictions, but will add space availability to markets in need.
As this volatile airfreight market persists, shippers are encouraged to utilize oceanfreight services as much as possible.