COVID-19 Latest Updates

USTR Suspends France’s Digital Service Tax, Congestion Continues at U.S. Coastal Ports, and Air Freight Rates Decline

By January 14, 2021 No Comments


Ocean carrier space is still hard to come by. There are few to none empty containers available to load in China unless bookings are completed through the recently-offered premium services. These constraints on vessel space are due to U.S. imports from Asia increasing. If customers have new shipments that need to depart China before Chinese New Year (February 12th), premium services will need to be used for those shipments. However, standard services will most likely not sail until the end of February. The rates on these standard services will most likely extend through the end of January, but there’s a chance that the rates may change if shipping lines choose to raise them. 


United States Trade Representative (USTR) suspends France’s digital service tax. The USTR has decided to suspend these digital service tariffs that were scheduled to go into effect on January 6, 2021. According to the USTR’s office, these tariffs were suspended “in light of the ongoing investigation of similar tariffs adopted or under consideration in ten other jurisdictions.” The civil aircraft Section 301 tariffs still took effect on January 12, 2021. 

ICYMI: Section 301 tariff exclusions extended. Due to the ongoing pandemic, 80 medical supplies will be excluded from the Section 301 tariffs until March 31, 2021. The full list of products can be found on a PDF online from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative


Congestion continues at U.S. coastal ports, causing delays. On the east coast, the port of New York is experiencing delays of up to two days, while Savannah is experiencing delays of up to 60 hours and Miami is heavily congested due to a surge in import volumes. There is a chance that the East Coast ports, however, may be alleviating soon, but it’s unclear as to when. On the Gulf, Houston is experiencing delays of up to 12 hours after holiday closures, while New Orleans is experiencing berthing delays of up to 24 hours. The West Coast is even more congested, with vessel wait times reaching 14 days at Los Angeles and Long Beach, and three days at Oakland due to a labor shortage. And in Seattle, vessel wait times are up to 36 hours due to high import volumes. 

Congestion worsens at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach due to import surges and labor shortages. According to terminal operators, the congestion is worsening due to six months of near-record cargo volumes arriving at the port, pushing the Southern California supply chain beyond its capacity. There are longer container dwell times and rising truck turn times, and terminal operators can’t vacate laden import containers fast enough to make room for new shipments.  There seems to be no end in sight for this unprecedented congestion for quite some time, at least through June or July. If you need any help navigating this congestion, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experts


Air freight rates have returned to pre-COVID-19 rates. These rates have been the lowest rates seen in the past year, returning to the same rates as the pre-COVID era. This decline in rates indicates that there’s little to no demand for air freights at the moment, so customers looking for alternate means of shipping goods may find some use in air freight as opposed to ocean freight. It is unclear as to how long this decline in rates is going to last, so it’s recommended to check regularly on these rates. 


Delays continue due to COVID-19 constraints and freight demand surging. The ongoing surge in U.S. imports and the COVID-19 pandemic is creating shortages all across the board, especially in the trucking industry. Trucks are being filled at a prior stop, pick-up dates are being pushed out as deliveries are missed, and drivers are delayed by other shippers. These problems are all causing long delays in the arrival of goods and even penalties imposed on shippers by retail customers for missed deliveries.  


Chassis shortages in Chicago worsen due to record volumes. Beneficial cargo owners have been unable to get their containers out of Union Pacific’s largest Chicago terminal due to a chassis shortage. The railroad stated that this shortage is a temporary issue, and it’s working on moving piled up containers onto chassis and trucks.