Shipping delays happen quite a lot in the trading sphere.

The reasons might vary a lot, but in the end, such delays can significantly affect your business.

Dealing with this problem might take a lot of will and skill, however, it is quite possible to guarantee that your shipments from China will be delivered as smoothly as possible.

Please, become familiar with this guide if you want to know top tips and tricks on how to do when shipping delay arises.

Let’s also mention that our article fits both buyers and sellers.

Don’t be afraid, this is a very rare scenario, but we won’t lie to you – sometimes it happens. 

In China, however, such a possibility is minimal due to harsh punishment for thieves.

How often shipping delays happen?

Shipping delays are far more common than everyone wants to think.

It is true not only in the case of China.

According to the worldwide statistics, from 6 to 12% of shipments are usually delayed regardless of shipping company or carrier.

So, on average, every tenth package is delayed.

This number can increase even more, to over 30% during times when service companies are overloaded.

One of five shipments deals with certain troubles during the delivery process (like delays or wrongly applied fees).

Even such carrier giants as USPS and FedEx have troubles with the timing of their shipments.

According to US government statistics, the delay rate in January 2019 was 12.87% (for USPS and FedEx packages sent between the USA and Canada).

Speaking of Chinese trading market, the situation with shipping delays is quite the same.

There are no official numbers about the percentage of shipments that were delayed.

However, we believe, that it is about 10 % of cargo is delayed each year when shipping from China.

What is a possible delay?

Sometimes you can see the tracking status “possible delay” while tracking your parcels.

It means that the parcel was received by your shipping company, but it might be delayed for some reason.

For example, there has been a disruption to the transport or delivery network.

This could be something like a flood or a traffic incident.

Why do LTL freight delays happen? How to avoid them?

The main reason why LTL freight delays happen is the impossibility of your shipping company to fill the container in time.

Logically, no one wants to send your single parcel in a huge empty container.

So, the shipping company might take some time to wait for other orders.

What are the demurrage charges? Who pays for them?

In international trade, demurrage refers to fees that the charterer pays to the shipowner for the delayed operations of loading/unloading.

Officially, demurrage is a form of liquidated damages for breaching the laytime as it is stated in the governing contract.

What are the main reasons for shipping delays?

There are a lot of scenarios which can lead to shipping delays.

We’ve gathered the most popular of them, according to international practice.

The most widespread situations are the following:

# 1. The shipment was delayed due to bad weather

The weather can’t be changed, and it badly affects all modes of transport. It is especially the case of maritime delivery.

# 2. The cargo is delayed because of port overload

Even with careful logistics, port and airline operators can’t predict the volume of future operations.

This can lead to overwork on the main routes and, eventually, to shipping delays.

# 3. The transport has changed its way for additional pickups

It happens not so often, but the shipping company can receive additional orders when the transportation was already started.

So, the ship/plane can make additional stops to make such pickups.

# 4. Lack of needed equipment or space on the transport

This situation happens due to logistic errors.

The shipping company can choose the transport that doesn’t meet all the required specifications for the successful carriage of goods.

There are also extremely rare but dangerous situations which can happen in international trade:

# 1. Your cargo was delivered to the wrong place

This is quite a tough situation. Yes, the carrier will do his best to deliver you goods eventually, however, it might take a lot of time.

You can require some kind of compensation from the shipping company or freight forwarder in this case.

# 2. Port operators have lost your cargo

Due to logistic error, your cargo might be delivered to the wrong haulage terminal under the wrong number.

# 3. Your container was stolen

Such vessels still pass through various quality tests but they appear to be broken much often.

# 4. The transport is broken

The vast majority of shipping companies use outdated transport which was bought at a discount.

How to deal with shipping delays (as a buyer)

To be fair, the buyer has little to do when it comes to shipping delay itself.

But there are some preventive means which can help you to avoid such a situation at all or shorten its possibility to minimal.

Let’s take a closer look at some example scenarios which happens quite often in international transportation.

# 1. No space on the scheduled transport

As we said above, sometimes it appears that the transport selected to carry your shipment doesn’t have enough space or equipment to do so.

What to do: Book the needed number of spots for your cargo ahead (approx. two weeks earlier before your goods are ready for delivery).

If you choose Bansar as your forwarding agent, you can always contact us and provide your specific shipping requirements.

We are aimed to be your trustful partner, not just a transportation service seller.

# 2. Your products can’t be delivered to the port in time

When you order FCL (Full Container Load), the suppliers usually fill the containers by themselves and deliver them to the pickup place.

In the case of the LCL shipment (Less than Container Load), the supplier delivers goods to the warehouse of the forwarder for the following consolidation.

And here’s always a certain cut-off date stated by the selected carrier.

Messing with this date means missing the scheduled transport.

What to do: Order the empty container as early as you can (at least 7 days).

Also, if land delivery is involved, do not forget to order it earlier because it is the most unstable mode of transportation

# 3. Wrong choice of the HS code for your goods

It is not a secret that the suppliers can apply for a tax refund from the government based on the HS code.

Such refund rate can be up to 17%, which is not bad money as you can assume.

This is the main reason why some suppliers might use the wrong HS code intentionally.

If customs staff find out such thing, they can hold your goods until the seller changes the HS code.

Also, the supplier might be obliged to pay penalty fees.

What to do: Work with trusted and reliable suppliers.

Also, Bansar can help you with transportation paperwork to help you avoid such situations beforehand.

# 4. Obligations connected with property rights

If you buy products under some brand, officials might require an authorization letter from the owner of such brand.

It can cost you a lot of time and money if you don’t prepare everything earlier.

What to do: First of all, be sure that you are working with patented suppliers.

Also, as it was said above, be sure to prepare all the documentation beforehand.

# 5. The vessel left late due to weather

This is a scenario where you can do anything.

Yes, you can try to believe in weather predictions and pick up hot seasons for your delivery, but it will not ensure the delivery time for 100 %.

Except for the above-mentioned scenario, you can actually prepare for unseen circumstances and guarantee yourself a timely delivery.

The easiest way to do so is to plan everything ahead.

Work together with your supplier and freight forwarder to make your shipping processes as quickly as possible.

Other tips

When it comes to the process of transit, the vessel changing its route is the most widespread case.

This is another scenario about which you can’t do anything, even if you are using the help of a freight forwarding agent.

But such agent will be the first who receive the information from the carrier, so he’ll let you know about the delay ASAP.

When the transit process is completed trouble still can arise.

Port delays can be the case for various reasons, including worker strikes, the overload of terminals, etc.

Keep in mind Chinese holidays

If you work with Chinese suppliers on a regular basis, you might already know about the time when holidays come to China.

The vast majority of buyers, however, do not know about such things.

This happens due to the culture gap between China and foreign countries.

There is a huge amount of different holidays in China, which are usually celebrated from a couple of days to three weeks.

Remember, that the following holidays can affect the delivery time:

  1. National holiday (first week of October).
  2. Chinese New Year (can be celebrated for three weeks according to the lunar calendar).

National Holiday is a time when most Chinese travel abroad or visit their relatives across the country.

There is a huge possibility of delay response from your freight forwarder or supplier during this holiday.

New Year can last up to three weeks, with a big percentage of people moving across the country.

For the better part of hard-working people, this is the only chance in the year to get a break from their duties.

Not all three weeks are actual holidays: officially, the Chinese New Year lasts for 7-10 days.

But we strongly recommend not to appoint deliveries for three weeks in total because there are a lot of exceptions for the above mentioned official rule.

As we said earlier, this time might be the only for the vast majority of Chinese people to relax and spend a couple of days with their family.

Note: the New Year date is calculated in accordance with the lunar calendar.

So, this date changes each year; usually, it covers the end of January and the beginning of February.

What do I have to do during Chinese holidays?

Undoubtedly, you can still decide to buy some goods from China during vacation time.

Business is always a business, and we can understand that.

When shipping from China just before or during holidays, there are two most popular scenarios:

# 1. An overabundance of freight orders

Such a situation happens just before Chinese New Year, in January.

Scheduling delivery is very difficult in this month, and the freight cost is higher than in other months.

# 2. Lack of delivery orders

In March, on the contrary, the freight cost should be relatively low, because there is a lack of products available after holidays.

So, manufacturers need some time to create new assortment.

You can think that it is a good time to make some shopping but it is not true.

Because of orders lack, carriers will take much more time to fill vessels.

What to do: Try to avoid these two holidays and their aftermath.

Require certain dates for the next New Year from your seller.

Keep in mind that in the case of delay the best thing you can do is to stay in touch with your freight forwarder.

Also, do not forget to add some kind of buffer days to your supply chain.

This will help you to avoid serious troubles if your shipment was delayed.

How to deal with shipping delays (as a seller)

The supplier has a lot of power to deal with shipping delays when it comes to them.

When such a situation arises, the seller can do a bunch of things to ease the anger of the buyer.

# 1. Speak with your clients

Obviously, it is extremely important for you to constantly communicate with your clients.

In other cases, your customer would be frustrated not only because his cargo was delayed, but also because there is absolute silence from the supplier’s side.

So, you have to be the first person from whom your customer will get such bad news.

Apologize if you should and try to explain the situation to them.

# 2. Use auditing and logistics services to account carriers activity

This is one of the most effective ways to ensure you get the time-bound service you deserve.

The better part of shipping companies provide refunds they delay the delivery process because of their mistakes.

That is why you need to audit partner shipping companies and request subsequent refunds each time they screw up the delivery time.

Using automated audit services can significantly reduce your costs and provide effective control over partner shippers.

# 3. Find a real-time tracking service

Find and apply for a service that will provide you tracking info in real-time.

Not all tracking services give such an option, but there are a lot of precise systems which will help you be informed every minute.

So, when you find out about the delay, you can perform some useful actions: send another parcel to your client or inform such person beforehand.

# 4. Take control over the delay scenario

It is much easier to say than do, but you have to act as a person who really wants to solve the situation.

You don’t even have to try to avoid direct actions because it will show you in a bad light.

Do not email your clients and partners if you want to act fast.

Take calls to receive and provide updates immediately. Don’t hesitate to make decisions which will be the best for your client.

Doing so, you’ll gain a lot of trust from your customers.

# 5. Give your client the power to make decisions

Your client will be glad to have some degree of control over the delay scenario as well. 

Give them some options or provide the power to decide how to deal with shipping delays.

You can send them goods for replacement and then recover the delayed package from the carrier.

Or, you can provide your clients with discounts, bonuses, compensations, and so on.

# 6. Use special offers

As it was said above, this is a great step to make special offers to your clients.

This can serve as the smartest step toward pacifying your customers’ anger and also make them feel valued.

For instance, you could provide them 50% off on the total value of their next shipment.

Or you could provide free shipping on their next two orders.

You can come up with your own ideas on how to make your clients happy.

# 7. Beware of empty promises

Some companies tend to make empty promises.

The vast majority of them just want to stay fit with the trend.

And the nowadays trend says that the packages should be sent ASAP after the order was done.

So, you can see a lot of freight forwarders, suppliers and shippers, who state that the delivery will be 100 % done in 10/15/20 days and so on.

Such statements make huge risks to arise: if you do not fulfill these promises, your customers would be in pure rage.

Try to avoid such things if you can’t really guarantee meeting the delivery deadlines.

# 8. Use multiple shipping partners

Obviously, you have to use only reliable shipping companies as your partners.

However, even the most trustful partner can have some issues with delivery processes.

That is why you need to have a full deck of shipping companies up your sleeve.

Sure, this might require attentive research on your part to identify the expertise of each carrier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Incoterms 2010 speak of shipping delays?

Nope, Incoterms 2010 do not have clauses or clear statements about responsibility for shipping delays.

When such things happen the buyer contacts the supplier, who on his part contacts the shipper to figure out this scenario and get some kind of compensation for its client.

How to avoid longer shipping times (especially when drop shipping)?

The shipping time might be reduced with the help of various means.

Please, watch the useful YouTube guide on this topic, listed below.

Does the insurance cover delays when importing from China?

Cargo insurance can cover freight charges for non-delivery of your products.

This will provide you the financial security if the goods are not being delivered, or if the freight contract is not completed by the freight company after being paid.

In case of a shipping delay, this insurance is not applying.

However, there are special policies which can cover delays.

Contact your insurance company and ask them about such insurance contracts.

Why do I need a shipping delay complaint letter?

Complaint letter might be needed if you want to pursue your shipping company for the delay.

Not all suppliers and companies will contact you and apologize for the shipping delay.

Sometimes, you have to start the refund process by yourself, and that is why you need a complaint letter.

In practice, it is a document in which the buyer states the deadlines and how they were not met by the shipper.

You can find the rough example of such letter visiting this page.

What Bansar can make to help me avoid late delivery?

We work with reliable shippers only so we can provide you with high guarantees when it comes to the absence of shipping delays.

Please, contact our customers’ service if you want to see us in your team of pure success.