How to Prepare for Chinese New Year (CNY) and avoid shipping delays

Chinese New Year (CNY) is an important holiday in Asia, marked with celebrations and the closure of many offices and industries. These closures often lead to shipping delays and backlogs in the weeks leading up to and after CNY. In this article, we will discuss how importers can effectively prepare for CNY and minimize disruptions to their supply chain.

1. Understand the CNY Schedule: 
Chinese New Year typically falls between late January and early February, following the lunar calendar. In 2024, the public holiday lasts from February 10th to February 17th, with the New Year's Eve on February 9th and the New Year's Day on February 10th being the peak time of celebration. However, it's crucial to note that many industries may start closing even before February 10th and may remain closed for a week or more after CNY.

2. Plan Ahead for Shipments: 
With the closure of offices and factories during CNY, it is essential to plan shipments well in advance. As there is already limited space in the market in January, it is expected to become even tighter before CNY. Importers should ensure that their goods are ready at the origin at least 2 weeks before the beginning of CNY. Maintaining regular communication with suppliers to secure cargo readiness dates is crucial, as these dates can shift frequently due to factories running at maximum capacity.

3. Secure Space on Vessels: 
To secure space for your shipments, it is advisable to send all new bookings for early 2024 well in advance. This proactive approach will enable your freight forwarder to secure space for your cargo before it becomes scarce. If you are shipping multiple containers, consider splitting them among several bills of lading. This way, if one shipment is rolled, it won't impact all of your containers. On top of space constraints, we’re also facing a seller’s market again from the ocean carriers. The rates are subject to radical changes with very little notice. Therefore, we should except increases especially with the importations from Asia until after the CNY.

4. Consider Air Freight for Rush Shipments: 
In case of urgency, when LCL shipments need to leave just before CNY, consider air freight services as an alternative. Air services offer faster transit times, ensuring that you receive your cargo sooner. While air freight may be more expensive than sea freight, it can be a viable option for time-sensitive shipments when sea freight space is limited due to CNY.

5. Anticipate Post-CNY Shipping Changes: 
Following CNY, carriers may announce blank sailings to realign capacity with demand. These blank sailings result in fewer voyages and services available in the weeks immediately after CNY. Importers should take this into account when planning their shipments and expect potential delays or schedule adjustments during this period.

Chinese New Year is a significant holiday that impacts global supply chains, particularly in Asia. Planning, securing space in advance for shipments, and maintaining open communication with suppliers and freight forwarders are key to minimizing disruptions. By preparing well in advance and considering alternative shipping methods, if necessary, importers can navigate the challenges associated with CNY and ensure a smoother logistics operation.