Chinese new year and freight movements

17th January 2018

Now Christmas is out of the way, the next big date in the international calendar is Chinese New Year. This year the date is 16 February, which means the next month will see significant disruption to international freight movements that affect importing and exporting.

Chinese New Year and the effect on importing and exporting

Chinese New Year celebrations can last for up to ten days, and this means holidays for Chinese companies who are an important part of the supply chain. A booking at this time of year is no guarantee your goods will be on the vessel they are supposed to be. Your container can be rolled to the next available vessel because of space issues.

The time of year can see higher prices  (many lines are already increasing their rates from 15th January). With fewer vessels available there is an increase in demand for space that allows suppliers to charge a premium.

It can often be more cost effective just to postpone your freight movements until after the Chinese New year once the rates stabilize.



Airfreight will also see a rise in demand due to the lack of available shipping. The lack of options in the shipping sector will also affect the cost and available spaces for airfreight, so this can also be a risky or expensive option.



Plan ahead! It may be a little late for this year, but it should be as much a part of the calendar for importers and exporters as Christmas. Many regular importers and exporters will plan around Chinese New Year and schedule their transport before or after the period of uncertainty.

Important - Even if your goods have already shipped, if your goods are due to arrive in the UK during Chinese New Year it’s very important you ensure you have all the correct import documentation in order. They are:

  • bill of lading
  • commercial invoice
  • packing list 

You can customs clear and release your shipment on arrival to the UK as trying to get this paperwork during Chinese New Year can be VERY difficult.

Ask your freight forwarder for help

Your freight forwarder should be able to assist you with any alternative options if you HAVE to ship your goods prior to Chinese New Year.  However, if you’re not so lucky and your goods are rolled on to the next available vessel departing after Chinese New Year you may want to discuss quicker transit, such as a direct route to a UK main port such as Southampton or Felixstowe.