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Tips for Shipping During Peak Season

Ocean and air capacity begins to tighten and rates start to go up in the months leading up to the holidays as businesses prepare. See below for what you need to know about peak season and what you can do to ship successfully.


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In the second half of the year, businesses begin preparing for the winter holidays -- import volumes rise sharply, and so do ocean and air rates. Peak season, as it’s called, is known for high, volatile rates, rolled cargo, trucking delays, and other interruptions.

2018's peak season has started early this year. (If you want to keep a close eye on ocean/air rates, check out our weekly market updates, or subscribe to them here!)

What importers should know about shipping during peak season

Plan ahead

  • Air: Book 6-7 days in advance of the Cargo Ready Date (CRD).
  • Ocean FCL: Book 3-4 weeks in advance of the CRD.
    • LCL: Note that transit time for LCL shipments will be 7-10 days longer than an FCL shipment.
    • Avoid shipping 45’ HC containers, if possible -- these are more likely to be rolled.
  • Ports and warehouses will be extremely congested -- expect more time to load/unload at origin and destination.

Prepare for extra fees

  • Rates will be up, in general, for both air and ocean shipments.
  • Congested ports mean longer wait times for truckers, who will charge trucking wait fees.
  • Some ports and rail ramps experience chassis shortages, which can result in chassis split charges.

Be flexible

  • Consider choosing a service with a slightly longer transit time. The fastest transit-time services are more likely to be overbooked; if you select a transit time that’s longer by, say, a couple of days, your cargo is less likely to be rolled to the following week.
  • If your cargo is traveling inland, be flexible about the port of discharge. This is likely to result in a slightly longer transit time, but will allow for more options when choosing a sailing.

Get ready for Golden Week (October 1 - 10)

In order for ocean shipments to arrive in time for the winter holidays, they must be booked prior to Golden Week -- especially if you are shipping to the East Coast.

Coordinate your Amazon shipments

  • If it’s your first time shipping to Amazon with Flexport, please read our Amazon guide.
  • Black Friday / Cyber Monday: If shipping to Amazon for Black Friday (November 23) or Cyber Monday (November 26), your shipment must arrive at Amazon prior to their cutoff date.
  • Winter holidays: Amazon will also announce a holiday delivery cutoff date.
  • Be sure that your FBA shipments are coordinated and labeled prior to sailing

Get your Customs ducks in a row

  • Provide HTS codes on the Commercial Invoice, especially for new products that you have never shipped before.
  • Ensure the accuracy of CI line items
  • Assign a fair value to all FOC (free of charge) items on CIs, even if you are not going to be charged for them. US Customs will not accept any line items with a value of $0.

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