Factories and shops in the locked down city of Wuhan have pulled up the shutters after an extended Lunar holiday and shutdown period to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Millions of workers have returned to Chinese factories to manufacture a backlog of goods and ship them out.
Australian importers are keen to get their goods delivered and are wondering what impact COVID-19 has had on shipping. We’re pleased to report that it’s business as usual for us and the shipping industry is getting back to normal.
Shipping from China During COVID-19 FAQs
Here we answer some of our clients' frequently asked questions.
Can I still import goods into Australia?
Yes, you can import goods into Australia as you did before the coronavirus pandemic.
What is the impact on import services?
With goods not being manufactured for several weeks in parts of China, it takes time to catch up and fill backorders. We’ve found that shipments out of China have been cancelled because there isn’t enough cargo to sail without making a loss.
However, we don’t expect this problem to last if China can continue manufacturing without major disruptions. As factory production increases, the volume of cargo to Australia will improve and shipments shouldn’t experience delays.
Is air freight an option?
For most importers, even those of small, lightweight goods, air freight isn’t a viable option. Airlines around the world suspended or severely reduced their passenger routes because countries closed their borders to non-residents. These passenger flights also carry large quantities of imported and exported cargo. The grounded planes have caused air freight rates to soar.
Limited availability and high costs mean some non-perishable goods must now be sent by sea instead of air. Sea and air are the only options for Australia, but Europe can use rail as a reliable mode to import goods. The China-Europe train lines recorded an increase of 30% in volume during March.
Are there other possible shipping delays?
The pandemic has disrupted the movement of shipping containers around the world. Uncollected containers have sat on docks worldwide because of quarantines and roadblocks stopping truck drivers from picking up and dropping off. High demurrage and storage charges encourage companies to empty containers so they can go back into circulation.
What are the import conditions during COVID-19?
Australia has closed its international borders to anyone who isn’t an Australian resident except maritime workers. While the airports are deserted, Australian ports remain open for import and export business. We may import freight from any country including China.
The main restriction placed on freight is that ships must serve a quarantine period of 14 days at sea before they arrive at Australian ports. Crew members must remain onboard while the ship is berthed and wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) if they must disembark to perform any necessary vessel functions and in public spaces on the ship when non-crew members are on board. These measures ensure that ships’ crews don’t pass COVID-19 to Australian dock workers.
The risk of goods being contaminated with COVID-19 is very low because the conditions inside a container at sea make it highly unlikely that the virus can survive.
What are shipping costs like?
Despite the upheaval to the shipping industry worldwide for the last few months, shipping costs are comparable to this time last year. Vara Allied ensures it gains a firm quote before agreeing to any shipments.
Tips for Shipping from China to Australia
Try to follow these tips to reduce the risks involved with shipping while COVID-19 remains a threat.
Build in a Buffer
Now isn’t the time to rely on Just in Time (JIT) delivery. Organise for goods to arrive in Australia well before the required date.
Be prepared for delays in shipping and place your orders early. There’s a chance your shipment may not leave China on time if there’s not enough cargo to fill the ship.
While the Wuhan region reopened quite quickly after its initial lockdown, there’s the chance that manufacturers in any area of China may be forced to close due to an outbreak. If possible, place your orders early or have a back-up manufacturer in another region of China.
If you have had any problems with quality control of your Chinese manufactured goods, call Vara Allied on (08) 6115 0118 or contact us online.