COVID-19 Latest Updates

Section 301 Exclusions Extended, FMC is Monitoring Blank Sailings, and Mask Mandates Reaching Truck Stops

By July 30, 2020 No Comments


The U.S. Trade Representative announced extensions on Section 301 exemptions for 14 item classificationsThe goods, now set to have their exclusion expire on December 31, 2020, are mainly medical supplies and items critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Despite this good news, exclusions for many more items are set to expire July 31, 2020. If you’re looking for a partner to help you prepare for this or future exclusion deadlines, schedule a call with a Navegate customs expert. 


Rates in various sectors of ocean shipping are plateauing despite the end of July generally being a peak season. In the Europe-North America lane, prices are 7% lower year-over-year as shippers try to avoid overstocking themselves should the continent re-enter lockdown protocols. While history suggests a general rate increase (GRI) is likely to be implemented soon to lift the price plateauthere has been no formal announcement. Dry bulk prices were climbing to unprecedented highs for much of the year, but they’ve recently taken a nosediveAfter months of high demand and heavy congestion, the rate has been cut in half as capacity has returned to the market while urgent demand has subsided.  

Members of the FMC are taking a closer look at the surge of blank sailings in spring and early summer of 2020While a formal investigation is still being considered, they’re monitoring actions by major carriers to determine whether the blank sailings are genuinely necessary to adjust to the changes in demand or if they’re mostly motivated by carriers trying to maintain profit levels. 


Air cargo prices continue to slowly decline toward more level rates. While we’re seeing a significant decrease from the rates we saw in the spring, IATA predicts that belly cargo, or the cargo space on passenger planes won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024. 


Mask mandates have reached domestic truck drivers, as major truck stops require them to wear masks during their visits to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Drivers face near-normal business, though, as major ports remain constrained while overall capacity holds steady. 


Severe weather is contributing to already-rough waters at ports around the world. Officials have reported that congestion at Chinese ports is approaching record highs as torrential rains complicate operations under high demand and increased safety protocols. The next bout of severe weather is headed for the Caribbean and may lead to port closures or delays there. 

Montreal’s second port strike of the month is set to end Friday night. Longshore workers began their 96-hour strike on Monday, ceasing all container handling at the port to increase pressure on contract negotiations. 

Spikes in volume out of Los Angeles have led rail carriers to hit shippers with surcharges. Union Pacific has implemented a $500 surcharge on excess freight in reaction to heavy demand out of Los Angeles terminals, and other intermodal operators are imposing similar restrictions.