What does the celebration represent and how might this national holiday impact your shipments?

Chinese New Year (CNY), also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.

CNY is based on the Chinese calendar and usually begins on a different date each year. It is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth.  The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th of the month. Each CNY is symbolized and named after one of 12 particular animals (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig) and consists of a 12 year cycle. 2015 is the year of the Goat.

The holiday for CNY is officially recognized by the government as 7 days, with typical CNY celebrations lasting for 15 days. In 2015, holidays start on 19th February until 25th February.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the CNY vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decorations, material, food, and clothing. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in the hope to make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper cut-outs and poems with popular themes of “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of CNY, supper is a feast spent with family. Food will include pork, duck, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The CNY tradition is a great way to reconcile by forgetting all grudges, and sincerely wishing peace and happiness for everyone.

Effect on your imports / exports during Chinese New Year

As is the same every year, CNY has a massive impact on sea freight and transportation to and from Australia. During the holiday, most areas of government, construction and factories shut down, while ports and customs usually operate with a skeleton staff focusing on perishable priority items that are time-sensitive only, such as fresh produce.

Manufacturing plants across China typically shut down and tens of millions of workers make long trips back to their home towns from the industrial cities where their jobs are based. It has a huge impact on all global supply chains originating from China and it’s not always back to business as usual, before and after the 15 day celebration. The celebrations are also expected to affect port operations in terms of loading, barging schedules and possibly product availability. It can have a considerable effect on your supply chain during the celebration and should be planned for.

When the New Year approaches, factories kick into high-gear in an attempt to ship as many orders as possible before officially shutting down for the holiday.  Major retailers tend to plan ahead to accommodate for the manufacturing shutdown in China during the CNY. Planning and coordination are key to ensuring your supply chain continues to run smoothly during this period and you have enough merchandise for your customers. Importers and exporters will also need to make changes to their production and shipping schedules to ensure they have enough goods to get them through the downtime caused by the factory closures. Stocks are also at times kept in storage until factories are up and running again. China’s entire transportation system is practically at capacity during this time, and it is common for issues with container and truck availability when shipping goods close for CNY.

The shipping lines often introduce GRI (general rate increase) in January for peak demand before CNY, and space becomes tight as all suppliers struggle to ship their cargo before the holidays, as well as considering blank sailing programs with shipping lines.

The container shipping lines servicing the North East Asia-Australia trade lanes are moving to cut back on capacity and skipping a series of sailings. This Blank Sailing Program with shipping lines from all 9 consortiums, participate in managing the available space in the off peak period to combat the over-supply of tonnage in the shipping trade. Particularly during the two weeks of CNY, in preparation of volume lulls following the start of the holiday on February 19th, 2015, capacity will be cut by 35 – 42% which will mean less available space on the berth. Trade will be slow due to factories closing over the CNY Period and the traditional off peak period commences. Port capacity is limited and congestion is increased weeks before and after CNY that can lead to delays at the ports limiting the availability of goods in the supply chain. In China and its mainland ports, the celebrations are also expected to affect port operations in terms of loading, barging schedules, etc

chinese-new-year-2015

Timeframes to consider & planning

Shipments must be at port at least 10-14 days before Chinese New Year to ensure shipment before the break starts. Shipments must also be booked at least two weeks in advance because space quickly fills up. If you ship a large amount around that time, then congestion will likely bump at least one of your shipments to a later ship date, often a week after CNY if you do not manage your shipments in time. Most ports open again for normal shipping about one week after CNY. Filling containers and preparing customs declaration documents well in advance of the holiday are advisable steps to take. Ports will have major congestion the week leading up to and after the New Year as factories gear up for the shut down and return to work.

In summary, when planning for peak season, be sure to have a buffer for CNY – Two or three weeks for bookings and then another week for ETA in case of delays.

This annual celebration should be a part of your yearly supply chain planning.

Here are the dates of Chinese New Year for the next 6 years for your reference:

chinese-new-year-6-year-dates

We hope this article provides insights on how Chinese New Year may affect your shipping and the necessary steps to take to prevent facing supply chain and shipping delays at this time of the year.

For more information please contact your Magellan account representative, email info@maglog.com.au or our customs team on 1300 651 888.