Since its 2020 outbreak, COVID-19 has severely impacted our daily lives. The shipping industry was not spared, and it’s had to face tough circumstances as the workforce got shut down to prevent further spreading of the coronavirus. Countries started imposing bans on the entry of containers and vessels from other ports, especially from China, one of the biggest export countries in the world. Additional bans and lockdowns led to long transit times, and in some cases packages did not end up being delivered to their final destination at all. But are we in the clear now, or is Covid still impacting international shipping?
Just this week, Canada Post Corp. (CPC) reported that a high number of COVID-19 cases at its Gateway East processing plant in the Greater Toronto Area had forced them to temporarily close its largest shift to prevent further spread.
In its alert issued via the Universal Postal Union, CPC stated that: “As further staff shortages are expected during this time, in addition to measures to protect the health and safety of workers, member countries can expect delays in the processing and delivery of both inbound and outbound mail items”. However, in a follow-up message to the Postal Service concerning service delays on mailings to Canada resulting from the COVID-19 cases at the Office of Exchange in Toronto, CPC provided additional details on processing of inbound mail received from USPS. CPC said it is taking the following actions to help minimize delays as much as possible:
- USPS ground transportation dispatches to Toronto are being diverted to the Montreal Office of Exchange for processing.
- First-Class Packet International Service (FCPIS) and Commercial ePacket (CeP) volume already received in Toronto from the USPS is being cleared through customs using an automated process, which is not impacted by the reduction in customs personnel staffing.
- USPS Priority Mail Express International, Priority Mail International, FCPIS, and CeP dispatches continue to be prioritized at all three CPC Offices of Exchange (Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver).
Recent disruptions are not limited to Canada. In the past few weeks, GlobalPost has received notices from postal operators with expected delays due to COVID for other major countries such as France, Germany, Japan, Italy, and South Korea, just to name a few.
In addition to COVID-related issues with countries accepting U.S. export, there’s also an ongoing problem with the shortage of planes left out of the country due to travel restrictions and a limited amount of scheduled flights. As an example, The U.S Postal Service mentioned that South Africa requested to temporarily suspend closed-transit services. USPS currently uses South Africa to send closed-transit mail to Botswana, Eswatini, and Lesotho. Since South Africa is unable to deliver mail to these countries, USPS will put them on embargo list as of 1/29/2021.
While Covid has continued to impact the industry in 2021, it shouldn’t deter U.S. shippers from growing their export business. The demand from online buyers remains strong despite the delivery delays. Shippers just need to make sure they are resetting expectations for delivery speed, and not be so quick to issue refunds on packages that may be delayed by up to a week. Staying current with the latest carrier service updates will remain crucial, and visiting the GlobalPost service-updates page will help shippers stay up-to-date on all developments.