International Shipping Delays: What to Expect this Holiday Season

International Shipping Delays: What to Expect this Holiday Season
January 6, 2022 Chrissy Goodwin
A cargo container yard

No one wants to be caught unawares with the holidays approaching, and that means it’s time to consider international shipping costs. This season, be prepared with the facts on international shipping delays so that you know what to expect.

Why Are There International Shipping Delays in 2021?

Back in 2020, many people assumed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic would essentially be over by the time the calendar turned to 2021. Of course, that didn’t happen, and this year’s delays are likely going to extend into if not beyond 2022. Goldman economist Ronnie Walker explains, “Backlogs and elevated shipping costs are likely to persist at least through the middle of next year because no immediate solution for the underlying supply-demand imbalance at US ports is available.”

Governments, retailers, and individuals have done as much as they can to prepare for the holiday surge but only so much can be done either preventatively or proactively when the entire world is having the same problem. It’s an oversimplification to say that all delays are because of COVID-19, but the generalization isn’t too far from the truth. Since port congestion and other symptoms have no way to get better, the entire situation is really just getting worse. People want more things shipped than ever, but that doesn’t get it to them even faster; in fact, with the backlogs, it means more delays.

Different International Shipping Methods

To understand what to expect with delays in shipping this season, it’s first critical to recognize the different methods that are available for global shipping. While most international shipping happens over water through cargo transport, there are also options through the air. Learn more about different international shipping methods below. And remember, even the most secure or fastest methods can’t be completely immune from international shipping delays.

Roll On Roll Off

Usually abbreviated as RoRo, roll on roll off is the most popular method for international boat shipping and other large shipping services. While consumers may not care how their items are shipped, the method selected can have a significant impact on how soon their products get to them.

Expected Delay: Days to weeks; time varies. Ports are currently overwhelmed and there are worker shortages causing gridlock at each stage in the global supply chain due to consequences of the pandemic.

Container Shipping: Shared or Dedicated

As the name indicates, this type of shipping stores goods in a container, either shared or dedicated. Similar to open vs. closed transport over land on the road, the more private or exclusive a shipping situation is, the more expensive it is.

Expected Delay: Days to weeks; time varies. Many cargo containers are gridlocked at ports and experiencing international shipping delays.

Air Freight

Air freight is the quickest but most expensive shipping method, occurring in hours rather than the days or weeks it takes for cargo by sea shipping. With all the port problems going on right now for ocean cargo shipping, air freight may seem especially tempting. However, in reality, airports have many of the same concerns as sea ports.

Expected Delay: Hours to days; time varies. Airport restrictions make it difficult for air freight items to take off and land. Processing also takes longer than it did prior to the pandemic.

A loaded shipping container

Understanding International Shipping Costs This Year

Obviously, in general, costs will be higher due to international shipping delays 2021 has brought, with effects that vary, but in general both lower supply and increased demand. Air freight is still more expensive than standard ocean cargo shipping, but now the ratio is even higher for how much more it costs. It’s not just that shipping costs and times are increased; products themselves will also likely continue to cost more. Inflation is continuing to affect prices at each stage of the supply chain.

People typically look for the cheapest shipping options, but taking the lower cost often means sacrificing security, quality, and speed in the shipping conditions. It is difficult to even generalize expected delivery times for different shipping methods because the reality is so dependent on so many factors, which include:

  • The port of departure
  • The port of arrival
  • The distance between the port of arrival and the ultimate destination
  • How current travel and shipping restrictions are affecting and implemented in the various relevant locations
  • What type of shipping method is used
  • What companies are involved

And that’s just to name a few. For example, a shipment of high-end furniture from India to the United States in a shared container will definitely take a lot longer than an order of throw pillows being flown from Canada to the East Coast, but it may cost a lot less.

What Does This Mean for You?

So there’s delays, and it’s hard to know how it will affect costs, but how does that affect your shopping? Well, for starters, experts recommend getting shopping done as soon as possible. It won’t matter if companies have a three-week backlog if you get your Christmas shopping done before Black Friday. It’s also important to consider that some things may not be available in your price range in 2021 that would have been workable in 2019. But for something that’s really important, don’t be afraid to put down the funds necessary for a quality, secure shipping experience.

Get Qualified Shipping Support

Trans Global Auto Logistics is proud to serve as a bonded Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) and Freight Forwarder with more than 30 years of experience. While it’s true that we have never seen anything like the international shipping delays 2021 has brought with continuing effects of the pandemic, we are still the experts to come to when it comes to qualified shipping support. Reach out now for a quote on our services or more details.

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