Coronavirus COVID-19 | October Updates

October 15, 2020

Read the latest on Operations and Carrier updates. For questions, comments, or assistance, please contact us.

We understand there have been many impacts this year on the air, ocean, and ground freight markets. At Crane Worldwide Logistics, we strive to provide our clients with the best service and communicate the most current information impacting the market. Find below updates for October 2020. To see our previous updates, please visit our Coronavirus COVID-19 Resource Center.

We have warehouse space available, ground transportation options globally, and book air charters and fill space on ocean carriers.

Week 42 (October 12 - 18)

Ocean Operations

IPI Service Delays LAX / NYC

Due to the continued impacts of COVID-19, we are experiencing equipment and capacity shortages that are contributing to IPI delays nationwide. This is being felt especially in Los Angeles and New York gateways.

Continuous planning and work is being undertaken to mitigate any delays, and to ensure movement as smooth and quickly as possible. However, delays in transit times are possible and expectations are for these to continue in the 4th Quarter of 2020.

Recovery of CMA CGM systems following September cyberattack

CMA CGM’s online services are operational again after being taken down by a cyber-attack two weeks ago, but the hacking of its network has underlined the vulnerabilities of a rapidly digitalizing container shipping industry.

The carrier struggled to recover from the Sept. 28 cyber-attack and data breach that followed, disrupting the operations of its customers, but announced Sunday the group’s e-commerce services were “up and running.” The cyberattack affected CMA-CGM as well as APL and ANL. “All communications to and from the CMA CGM group are secure, including emails, transmitted files, and electronic data interchanges,” the carrier said in a customer advisory. “All our agencies as well as our back-office are now fully operational and at your service.”

Peak season congestion at LA–LB

Los Angeles and Long Beach marine terminals are increasingly restricted in their ability to dig out of an ongoing surge of imports, signaling weeks — if not months — of congestion until inbound volumes significantly slow.

With the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operating at peak utilization over the past three months, marine terminals are struggling to provide the surge capacity needed to accommodate record import volumes expected to continue throughout the fall months. Those conditions are limiting the ability of terminal operators to foster cargo-handling enhancements such as dual transactions and dray-offs that help truckers increase their productivity. In the longer term, this could be an indication that even with expansion projects scheduled for completion in the next few years, such as this week’s opening of the Gerald Desmond Bridge, marine terminals may continue to be challenged in handling unusually large import surges, according to port planners and marine engineers.

Marine terminals in Los Angeles–Long Beach appear to be operating at 80 to 85 percent utilization, “which means on peak days they are operating at 105 percent of capacity,” said Dan Smith, principal at the Tioga Group. “It’s killing everybody up and down the supply chain.”

March-September imports from Asia through LA-LB jump versus year-ago

The import surge that began in late June as the US economy emerged from the lockdowns implemented during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic continues unabated. US imports from Asia moving through Los Angeles–Long Beach in September increased 22 percent from September 2019, according to PIERS, a JOC.com sister company within IHS Markit. Asian imports in September were up 101 percent from March, when shipments plummeted following Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia and demand destruction in the US caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Terminal planners and marine architects say the LA–LB ports have more than enough capacity to handle cargo flows during much of the year. This buffer allows them to flex up during peak periods in the fall and the pre-Lunar New Year cargo surge each January.

However, the peak season this year differs from previous years. It began in late June with an unexpected surge of personal protective equipment (PPE), home office furnishings, computers, and exercise equipment, as retailers concentrated those imports into Southern California. Also, non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs) told JOC.com retailers shipped holiday merchandise earlier than usual this summer, and the big-box home-improvement stores have begun to ship spring 2021 merchandise early, concerned that vessel space will be unusually tight in January and February before factories in Asia close for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Container dwell times at the terminals in August increased to 3.25 days, up from 2.8 days in July and the highest dwell since February, according to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators.

Truck turn times have deteriorated all summer, according to the truck mobility report published by the Harbor Trucking Association. Average turn times increased each month from a record-low 58 minutes in June to 77 minutes in September. More disconcerting, the average number of trucks taking more than two hours to complete a transaction was 21 percent, up from 18 percent in August and 14 percent in July, and the highest percentage since February 2019.

Average length of LA-LB truck turn times increasing

The terminal congestion this fall is a stark turnaround from the winter and spring months when year-over-year imports each month declined by double-digits from the same months last year, according to PIERS. Space at the terminals was so plentiful that several operators offered to rent it for beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) who could not move their containers to import distribution centers. Those warehouses were filled to capacity with merchandise they could not ship to the stores that were closed because of COVID-19.

Space is still tight at the 1.8 billion square feet of industrial warehouse space in Southern California, said Jon DeCesare, president of WCL Consulting. Productivity within the warehouses is lower because of COVID-19 safety procedures and labor shortages. Also, there is not enough over-the-road truck capacity needed to move merchandise out of the warehouses to retail outlets across the country, he said.

Laden import containers, and the chassis they are sitting on, are dwelling at the warehouses an average of 6.9 days this week, according to the Pool of Pools website maintained by the three major intermodal equipment providers (IEPs) that operate the pool. IEPs say that when street dwell times exceed four days, chassis availability in the region suffers.
Source: JOC

Ocean Port Operations Status

  • Seattle: Fri 10/16 – T18 and T30 all day closed.
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach
    • Thursday 10/16 – Everport 2nd shift closed
    • Friday 10/16 – Everport, LBCT, Pier J, and WBCT 2nd shift closed.
  • Virginia: Portsmouth Marine Terminal will be closed starting May 04, 2020. Cargo volumes will be consolidated to other terminals.

Commercial Air Operations Update

IATA released an information page listing the status of airlines globally, which is free for all to access. Visit the page here

Charter Operations and Aircraft Availability

What charters do Crane Worldwide Logistics have available?

  • Peak Season is approaching, be prepared and plan ahead.
  • Capacity is available for charters globally, contact us for current rates and availability.
  • We have seen opportunities for part charters (20 tons and up) recently, but not seen regularly.
  • If you have an opportunity, send us the details, and we can work on current, part charter capacity, and pricing. Charter prices are based on current availability, and that could change rapidly. Size and rates have been fluctuating a lot over the past few days.
  • Crane Worldwide must have a signed charter authorization from our client before we can sign the charter contract with the provider.  Make sure you have someone standing by to sign agreements, capacity, and rates change quickly.
  • On all charters, funds must be received from our client before wheels up.

Air Freight Update

Alitalia - State-appointed administrator of Alitalia said that Italy’s flag carrier needed to be nationalized by the country’s government as soon as possible to remain afloat. Giuseppe Leogrande, who was appointed Alitalia administrator by the government in December 2019, has spoken to the Parliament of Italy on October 7, 2020. Leogrande urged the government to rush to nationalize Alitalia in order to ensure the air carrier’s business continuity. According to a statement reported by Reuters, Leogrande told the Parliament that a proper measure to keep the struggling Alitalia operational could be a new state-controlled company launch which would save the airline’s assets. The government of Italia unsuccessfully attempted to create a new company in May 2020. At the time, the government planned to launch a new state-owned airline that should have taken the control of Alitalia. For this aim, the government allocated a €3 billion worth of financial injection. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has ruined the plans. Despite that the European Union Commission approved a grant worth €200 million in order to resuscitate the airline and help alleviate the consequences of the pandemic in September 2020, Leogrande has allegedly requested for an additional €150 million arguing that Alitalia needed additional aid to keep afloat.

Etihad - The fleet of ten Airbus A380 aircraft of Etihad Airways disappeared from the airline’s booking site until at least September 2021.  The superjumbos have been grounded since March 2020, due to the drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike Air France, which announced the definitive retirement of its A380 fleet in May 2020, no final decision has been made yet at Etihad, according to the CEO of the Gulf airline Tony Douglas. However, it appears that the aircraft will not fly from Abu Dhabi until at least the winter season of 2021. "During this period, Etihad’s 10 Airbus A380s will remain grounded, until demand grows and there is sufficient appetite to reassess their viability," a spokesman for Etihad Airways told the Executive Travelers. Prior to the crisis, the Airbus giants were previously deployed on routes towards Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG), London-Heathrow (LHR), New York-John F. Kennedy (JFK), Seoul-Incheon (ICN), and Sydney (SYD). Those routes will now be operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, with the exception of Australia, where a Boeing 777-300ER will be used. Etihad has pending orders for more wide bodies, including 15 A350-1000, six 777-9, and one of each 787-9 and 787-10 that have yet to be delivered. Three operators have already resumed the operation of the A380: Emirates Airlines and China Southern Airlines (ZNH) , as well as Korean Air. Others have found alternative ways to generate revenue using the superjumbos. By the end of October 2020, Singapore Airlines (SIA1) (SINGY) will offer a “memorable dining experience” in one of its A380s parked in Changi Airport (SIN).

Hong Kong Airport - Maintained its place as the world’s busiest cargo hub in a difficult first half of the year that saw demand decline across the world’s top 10 freight hubs. the half-year figures recently released by Airports Council International (ACI) demonstrated the impact that the ground of passenger services as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak has had on cargo hubs. According to ACI the world’s 10 leading cargo hubs saw first-half demand decline by 4.1% year on year. Hong Kong maintained its place as the world’s busiest cargo airport despite a 10.2% decline, ahead of FedEx’s Memphis hub (0.8%) and Shanghai (0.4%).
Japan Airlines- Japan Airlines announced (06-Oct-2020) plans to reduce planned international frequencies by 82% in Nov-2020 and by 78% in Dec-2020 and Jan-2021. Details of frequency reductions as follows: Nov-2020: 82%; Americas: 59%; Europe: 69%;Southeast Asia: 77%;East Asia: 94%;Hawaii/Guam: 99%; Dec-2020: 78%;Americas: 59%;Europe: 65%; Southeast Asia: 76%;East Asia: 93%;Jan-2021: 78%;Americas: 59%;Europe: 66%;Southeast Asia: 77%;East Asia: 95%.

Qatar - Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker seems less-than-optimistic for the airline sector as he expects more bailouts and bankruptcies in the near future. “The worst is not behind any airline, not only Qatar Airways,” Al Baker said in an interview with CNBC. "There will soon be other rescues in Europe, there will be other bankruptcies around the world.” And with the collapse of more airlines, Qatar Airways chief also anticipates an increase in monopolies, a damaging situation for passengers. “I think that there will be more reduction in capacity, which in a way is also not good for the traveling public because then it will give a monopolistic situation to certain airlines that exactly wanted this to happen,” Al Baker warned. In September 2020, Qatar Airways reported a historical $1.92 billion net loss for the fiscal year 2019-2020, mostly blamed on the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, as well as Qatar’s diplomatic crisis ongoing since 2017. The airline issued 730 million shares to the government after receiving $2 billion in state aid to help alleviate the loss.

Ground Transportation Operations

Spot market rates continue to climb with strong volume increases across equipment types.  September say a 4.9% increase from the August average rate of $2.47 per mile.  The average hit a low point of $1.63 a mile in May.  The third quarter of this year saw rates surge as the quarter progressed. Up approximately 20% y/y in July, spot rates were approximately 40% higher y/y in September. Dry van freight is commanding near-record per-mile rates as tender rejections remain high.

September spot van, reefer and flatbed volumes were similar to August, but load-to-truck ratios increased across all three equipment types as available capacity tightened. The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, reefer and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, rose 6.1% from last month and was 13% higher than September 2019. “We’re seeing strong volumes across equipment types as the economy continues to recover, particularly in areas related to consumer spending. It’s good news for retail, but the industrial and energy sectors are still seeing a dip in volumes,” said Ken Adamo, chief of analytics at DAT. “Spot market rates just keep climbing as companies turn to the spot market to help them manage imbalances in their supply chains.” Nationally, the September load-to-truck ratio for vans rose for the fifth straight month to 5.5, meaning there were 5.5 available loads for every available truck on the DAT network. The van load-to-truck ratio was 3.8% higher compared to August and more double the ratio in September 2019.

The robust demand environment stems from seeming endless inventory restocking, and shipments tied to the expectation of a robust peak season. The strength in demand likely kept truckload carriers operating at full capacity during the quarter. However, many carriers have recently indicated difficulty seating additional tractors due to the lack of available drivers.

Demand and pricing aren’t presenting obstacles to a future TL bull market. There are several capacity headwinds – high level of carrier failures since 2019, prohibitive increases in insurance costs, the implementation of the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, tight credit markets and a sustained period of below replacement level Class 8 truck buying (even with the outperformance seen in September’s order activity) that are supportive of the current TL supply-demand dynamic.  Headwinds from COVID-19 fears, the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, limited driver school enrollment during the pandemic and a strong construction employment market have reduced the number of qualified drivers.   Individual fleets are grappling with a multitude of factors, making it more difficult to find drivers to move that freight. The for-hire segment’s driver supply is dwindling due to the retirement of veteran truckers, drivers’ ability to pass drug tests, and competition from other “blue-collar” industries such as manufacturing and construction, as well as local delivery and private fleets.

FTR reports that preliminary U.S. net trailer orders for September “exploded” to the third-highest month ever, at 52,000 units. September’s orders were 23,500 units above August and 33,400 more than September 2019. With this latest activity, trailer orders for the last 12 months now equal 224,100 units. The great majority of the September orders were for 
dry vans.

Global Border Crossing Status and restrictions

  • Facilitated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe read more here

Land Borders

  • Sixfold have a free application that maps out European borders with live information on crossing times read more here

Week 41 (October 05 - 11)

Ocean Operations

  1. Capacity is COMING BACK for the Transpacific Eastbound Trade in October!
    1. (26%) for West Coast discharge services
    2. (31%) for East Coast discharge services
  2. Do not expect demand to drop just yet as things will remain steady as they typically do through November 10th.
  3. 40 HC’s remain tight, so shippers have to be flexible with using 40’ stds as needed.
  4. Expect rates have stabilized for Q4 2020.
  5. Carriers have learned to be effective at balancing supply and demand better than we have ever seen.
  6. Normal historical container flows are in a state of flux.
  7. We believe the next three years supply and demand will be in greater balance shifting to a carrier’s market.
  8. Expect carriers to start limiting free time exceptions given the fact this has a major impact on chassis flow within the USA.
  9. Expect demand for ocean expedite services ex Central China will increase this month because of PPE shipments resuming.
  10. Dwell Times
    1. Please keep in mind on average plan on 68-72 hours to discharge a vessel from the time it arrives. The exception is Prince Rupert and Savannah which is around 37-42 hours.
    2. If cargo is moving inland it is taking between 9-11 days just to get it loaded on rail.
    3. Keep in mind you also have dwell time at the final destination rail CY as most trains take about 36-41 hours to discharge.
    4. All of this needs to be factored in so clients can prepare for a total TT analysis.
  11. Invest more time
    1. To communicate with your service provider about your business and more importantly about the changes in your business.
    2. To establish a clear demand plan with your service provider.
    3. To explore ways to manage or minimize risk.
  12. Savannah Port
    1. Recently ocean carriers have started offering rail service to / from CHI ramps via SAV.
    2. Ocean carriers taking advantage of CHI via SAV import routings are: MSK, CMA, ONE, HAP, EVE, ZIM (by container volume in that order).
    3. 2020 YTD Imports = 465 containers (CSX = 238 / NS = 227).
    4. Collectively all on dock dwell from discharge vessel to load rail & off terminal has been hovering around 37 hrs but this past week the number got back down under 24 hrs.
    5. Ocean carriers taking advantage of CHI via SAV export routings are: HAP (approx. 95% of all exports), Saf-Marine (SML), HMM, CMA (by container volume in that order).
    6. 2020 YTD Exports = 730 containers (CSX = 9 / NS = 721).
    7. 45% of the USA population can be served via Savannah Port.
    8. Top intermodal markets to consider for Port of Savannah are:
      1. Atlanta
      2. Memphis
      3. Nashville
      4. Charlotte
      5. Huntsville
      6. Birmingham
    9. Expect future growth Areas for Port Savannah to reflect:
      1. Memphis
      2. Chicago
      3. St. Luis
      4. Louisville
      5. Columbus
      6. Cincinatti
    10. MapPMI Index
  13. PMI Index
    1. Covid-19 and shutdowns of the global economy have led to the sharpest drop in GDP since the 1940’s. However, fiscal stimulus did help drive some corrections. Above 50 is expansion and below 50 retraction.future growth areas for port savannah

Air Freight Update

US Airlines - October 1, 2020, CARES act expired, and U.S. airlines - including American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) , Delta Air Lines and United Airlines - started laying off and furloughing their staff in thousands. A replacement for it, talked about for months on end, never came.

ANA - All Nippon Airways is resuming flights to Brussels Airport from October 13. Flights to the hub will be carried out with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft, which has a 35-tonne capacity for bellyhold cargo. The aircraft will be used for cargo-only operations on the route and will not transport passengers to Brussels Airport. “After a temporary suspension of flights due to the current COVID crisis, the direct connection between Belgium and Japan will now be re-established,” the airport said. “We hope, together with ANA, to be able to restart passenger flights soon as well.” ANA has been flying to Brussels Airport since 2015.

Ethiopian Airlines Group - offers the operational assistance for South African Airways (SAA) as part of a joint venture with the government of South Africa. Speaking to local media on October 4, 2020, Tewolde GebreMariam, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, said that the airline could provide its pilots, aircraft and maintenance services for struggling SAA. According to GebreMariam, Ethiopian is able to provide some of its Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft which are more modern than SAA’s Airbus A340s.However, due to possible asperities in managing SAA’s restructuring process and financial outlay ties, Ethiopian Airlines has shown no intention in dealing with legacy issues such as SAA’s debt repayment or employee reduction process. South African- All operations of the state- owned airline were suspended on September 29, 2020, after previous attempts to restructure the carrier met with opposition from both the government and trade unions. For the implementation of SAA’s resuscitation plan, ticket refunds and severance packages payout for 4,000 employees, the government of South Africa still needs more than $591 million. The SAA filed for liquidation and bankruptcy protection in December 2019, after 8 years of continuous losses.

IAG (BA) - AG Cargo has resumed regular services from London Heathrow to Abuja, Accra Cairo, Lagos and Cape Town, following an announcement of plans to kick start the services in August. The resumed services, which were initially paused due to coronavirus-related passenger travel restrictions, are being carried out daily using wide body Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft to and from London Heathrow. IAG Cargo said the service will enable the transportation of pharmaceutical and medical goods into Africa, as well as the export of automotive, electronics and machinery, and perishables to the rest of the world. Darren Peek, regional commercial manager for Europe and Africa at IAG Cargo, said: “The return of these additional services is another positive development and means we are now flying to all the key destinations in continental Africa we served prior to the COVID crisis, further supporting our customers in the region to stay connected with their trading partners across the world.”

National Airlines - has called up three of its freighters from storage as it looks to meet cargo demand. The carrier said that in response to the “rapidly growing demand for cargo” charters it would add three more B747-400Fs to its existing fleet of two of the aircraft. National acquired three B-747-400Fs two years back and because of the declining demand for airfreight all of them had been parked in Arizona. Following maintenance checks, the first of the three aircraft was put into service in September, with another due to join in October and the third in November. Chris Alf, chairman of National, said: “We always had a plan of bringing out the parked airplanes into service right at the beginning of the year but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. “We felt the urgency to bring on these aircraft to support the demand for moving the urgent relief supplies in support of governments and global aid agencies. “It was strategically important for us to bring in additional cargo capacity since there is a huge constraint because of the pandemic taking away the belly capacity on passenger operations. We are happy to offer our global customers with an additional three B747-400Fs.”National said  its B747-400Fs are flying between the US, Middle East, China, and Hong Kong on a daily basis. The move comes just as the industry heads into a peak season that is proving hard to predict. While demand is expected to be mooted compared with previous years, passenger carriers are only slowly bringing capacity back into the market raising question marks over the supply demand balance.

Ground Transportation Operations

  • The North American Surface Market (ground and intermodal) remains very volatile with demand outpacing supply and anticipating a very robust fourth quarter driven by a peak in imports and growing ecommerce.
  • For-hire trucking companies added 4,600 payroll jobs in September, according to the Department of Labor’s monthly employment report – the fifth consecutive month
    that employment has grown in the trucking industry. The recent growth follow huge dips in Spring when fleets reacted to the downturn caused by the Covid-19 shutdown. Fleet hiring did slow some in September after a big jump in August, which saw a month-to- month gain of 10,000 jobs. All told, for-hire trucking has added back 23,800 jobs since May. However, that’s still less than a third of the total jobs lost in March and April – 96,700, according to the DOL.
  • The industry saw thousands of drivers exit the labor pool after the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse went live in January. As of Aug. 1, the number of drivers who tested positive for drug use and placed in a prohibited “do not hire” status was 26,433. Of this group, 21,053 have not yet started the return-to-duty process. Another contributing factor to the present shortage is that fewer drivers have been going through training schools due to limited seating capacity from social distancing. Driver schools are graduating 30% to 40% fewer drivers, and this will result in tens of thousands of drivers not entering the labor pool this year.
  • Per-mile rates paid to motor carriers on Truckstop.com’s board last month reached heights of late 2018 — largely considered one of the best years on record for spot market rates activity. According to monthly average rates data provided by Truckstop.com, flatbed and reefer rates hit averages of $2.59 per mile, while van rates hit $2.56. The spot market has swelled with unanticipated loads that aren’t being hauled under contract. Like employment, per-mile rates cratered in April and May. However, a boom in retail spending and goods-heavy consumption has caused spot rates to rally since June. We’ve seen a V-shaped recovery in freight with rail volumes up 16% sequentially from 2Q to 3Q, LTL tonnage inflecting positive y/y, TL spot rates up over 40% y/y last month, and West Coast imports up 15% y/y in August after 3 straight quarters of double- digit declines. Intermodal volumes remained very strong las t week (+6% y/y).
  • Friday afternoon, ACT Research released September preliminary net order figures for the N.A. Class 8 Market. Preliminary net orders came in at 31,100 units in September, +60.4% sequentially from August, and +145% y/y. Orders reached their highest level in nearly two years and moved above replacement levels (around 23K per month) for the first time in over 20 months. Looking ahead, ATA expects truck sales to drop from 778,373 units sold in 2019 to just 523,714 in 2020 before recovering to 612,878 units sold in 2021.

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