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How Should I Prepare for Chinese New Year (CNY)?

During Chinese New Year, factories close down and supply chains are disrupted. If you're importing or exporting goods around this time, find out how to prepare.


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When is Chinese New Year 2019?

Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the biggest Chinese celebration of the year. In 2019, Chinese New Year (CNY) will take place February 3-9.

What will Chinese New Year closures look like?

Factories will be closed for the entire week of Chinese New Year. Most factory workers will travel a long way to spend the holiday with their families, so there will be additional closings, delays, and disruptions occurring in the weeks before and after CNY, as workers make the trips to and from their hometowns. All in all, factories are closed and/or operating at diminished capacity for at least 4 weeks.

In anticipation of Chinese New Year, ocean and air freight rates will increase significantly; we expect to see these higher rates as early as mid-December 2017. Rates should begin decreasing 1-2 weeks after Chinese New Year.

Additionally, space will become more difficult to secure, and carriers will be overbooked earlier than usual. Truckers will be also difficult to secure before CNY, and their services will be more expensive.

How much will freight rates increase?

Ocean carriers will announce General Rate Increases (GRI) as the holiday approaches.

Carriers will launch their blank sailing programs in late December / early 2018. They will likely make this announcement as late as possible to retain unpredictability in the market, in an effort to make GRI/PSS stick. Depending on the strength of the market, carriers may add additional capacity to match demand.

We are working very closely with our partners, and with the carriers, to stay in the loop; we’ll be sharing updates as additional information becomes available.

How will space be impacted?

In advance of Chinese New Year, space will be tight and most services will be full.

After Chinese New Year, carriers will have more blank sailings in order to better align capacity to demand. This will mean fewer voyages and services available in the week or two after CNY.

How can I prepare for Chinese New Year?

The best strategy is to plan ahead and work closely with us. You should plan to book your transportation (especially ocean) at least three weeks prior to Chinese New Year; the earlier, the better. If possible, share a forecast with your Flexport team.

Check in on Cargo Ready Date. Follow up closely with your suppliers on the Cargo Ready Date -- these can shift frequently in advance of Chinese New Year, since factories are running on maximum capacity.

Multiple containers: If you are shipping multiple containers, we recommend splitting these among several bills of lading. This way, if your shipment is rolled, it won't impact all of your containers.

Think about air: Another option is to consider shipping by air -- especially if you have a strict deadline from a retailer or are running out of stock. Keep in mind, though, that air capacity can be tight before Chinese New Year, too, so you won’t want to leave that decision to the last minute (especially given the strength of the air freight market).

Longer transit time: If you aren’t able to plan ahead, another strategy is to choose a service with a slightly longer transit time. In general, 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.

Port of Discharge: If your cargo is traveling inland, another option is to be flexible about the port of discharge. This is also likely to result in a slightly longer transit time, but will allow for more options when choosing a sailing.

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