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Current State of International Shipping

Despite all of the restrictions in place as a result of the pandemic, e-commerce shipping is really taking off. Carriers are reporting record numbers of shipments with volumes similar to those of Black Friday.

With that said, we want to prepare you on the current state of international shipping. Understanding how this can impact delivery to your customers will help you make informed shipping decisions.

As always, it’s a good idea to be proactive and transparent with your customers to manage any expectations. And now more than ever, it is important to remember that all delivery times are estimated and not guaranteed. Given the current climate, international shipments are experiencing unprecedented delays and your customers should be prepared.

Due to limited transportation flows, reduced staffing, strict safety guidelines and an increase of volumes, our partner carriers are experiencing delays with moving shipments internationally.

Additionally, we have been advised that the U.S. Postal Service may need to adjust international rates to help offset the impact. With this, it is likely that postage rates will increase this summer. We are working closely with our partner carrier to keep you updated on this and will notify you of any changes to pricing.

Sea Transportation

Due to limited airline availability and air cargo capacity, USPS is now using ocean transport to ship mail in an effort to get packages from the U.S. to international destinations.

  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland (Geneva and Zurich).

This means that delivery times will be upwards of an additional 3-4 weeks on top of regular delivery estimates. This is also in addition to any customs clearance and foreign postal authority delays.

In short, expect long delays to shipping and insurance claims processing.

If customers are urgently in need of their items, advise them in advance of the potential delays to avoid any negative experiences. If you are shipping high-value items we strongly encourage adding Chit Chats Insurance and using a fully tracked service.

Tracking

Once our partner carrier’s tracking page (i.e. USPS, Asendia) indicates that a shipment has left the U.S., the carrier does not have further visibility until arrival in the destination country. Our partner carrier’s tracking may not update until there is tracking event from the postal authority in the destination country. This is especially true if the shipment experiences a delivery or routing error, delays, or exceptions. As a result, the details from the country’s postal system may provide more information on the status of the shipment than what our partner carrier’s tracking page may show.

This is why in some cases it is possible to see more updates on the destination country’s postal carrier’s page. We dig into this and more in our previous blog post for how to track international shipments.

Tracking updates will also typically occur at the local and regional pickup locations when a package enters the destination country. Due to the delays with processing and the safety measures in place specific to the country this can impact when you will see tracking updates.

In short, tracking updates are delayed and there will be gaps in tracking events while the package transits from U.S. to the destination country.

Our partner carriers have advised that there is a backlog of shipments awaiting transport to international destinations that rely on foreign airlines to pick up the cargo. There can even be further delays between short-haul flights to the next destination as this is all dependent on airline capacity.

Posts are trusted partners in the delivery of goods, vital medical supplies and essential information on the pandemic. The cancellation of more than 4.5 million passenger flights – the primary means of transporting post – has meant that capacity is scarce, costs more and takes longer. Action needs to be swiftly taken to address the shortfall in air cargo capacity and to keep the mail moving

General Bishar A. Hussein, UPU Director

Customs

On top of any transit delays, don’t forget that international packages must go through customs clearance upon arrival in the destination country. This can unfortunately add delays as carriers do not have control over customs processing. This is regulated by the destination country’s customs authority.

To minimize any delays, be accurate with your shipment descriptions and their values.

In short, expect customs clearance delays in addition to transit delays.

Find details on specific countries impacted by service disruptions and suspensions in our partner carrier international updates or on our partner carrier service updates: