Coronavirus affects air and sea freight

Security measures against coronavirus outbreak have resulted in schedule changes and capacity issues for air and sea freight.


Although various countries have started to lift the restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the situation remains challenging especially in many countries outside Europe, where the pandemic is not yet under control or the number of new corona cases is growing.

The impacts of the official regulations on local infrastructures vary in different countries, and delays for handling cargo at ports and airports due to the local restrictions are possible. In case pick-ups and deliveries are delayed and shipments must be stored at terminals, additional storage costs may apply.

We continue to encourage you to communicate closely with your suppliers and/or recipients to get first-hand information on the local conditions and their possible impacts on pickups and deliveries of your shipments. We also recommend to agree with your partners as early as possible on any potential additional costs caused by possible governmental restrictions.

For general information on operational status of airports, ports and our offices in DSV countries, please visit the global sites of DSV-Panalpina group:

Dashboard of operational status in DSV countries
Interactive map of restrictions per country

Sea freight, status 18th May 2020

For sea exports, the situation remains unchanged. The export vessel capacity is still significantly lower than normal, which is affecting especially FCL export shipments. LCL export services are currently working normally. When planning your sea export shipments, it is advisable to pay attention to the possible local governmental restrictions at the destination as these may affect the possibilities for inland deliveries and thus impact the total transit times. Due to capacity constraints additional ocean freight surcharges such as Peak Season, Equipment Imbalance or Congestion surcharges apply on various ocean export trade lanes. Detailed information on possible surcharges is available from your DSV contacts.

As the demand of sea import from Asia remains below normal, carriers have continued to cancel sailings from Asia. As a consequence vessels have been overbooked which has led to freight increases. The transit times for sea imports have increased partly due to the rerouting of the ocean loops and partly due to the changes in the feeder services from Europe.

The current market situation has caused an increase in demand for China-Europe rail cargo. Trains have been fully booked well in advance and some of the operators have increased rates. On the other hand the direct service from Hefei to Helsinki has responded by adding more departures from the beginning of June. From June 5th onwards trains will depart from Hefei every Friday. This will increase capacity as well as enable regular rail traffic for weekly import consignments. 

Air freight, status 14th May 2020

Globally, the capacity challenges in the air freight market continue, with limited cargo aircraft capacity to meet the overall demand while most passenger flights remain grounded. However, various airlines have successfully converted passenger planes to operate cargo, and for the last weeks of May, regular connections have been established for certain routes (eg daily Helsinki - Shanghai departures).

While direct connections are still only available to a limited extent, shipments to various destinations can be routed using the DSV Gateway concept. DSV Gateways offer the possibility to route both export and import shipments via Central Europe with DSV's own charter network. In addition alternative solutions can be offered, e.g. with Air-Sea combination shipments can be routed by air to Singapore and continue by sea to Oceania. For more information on different alternatives and/or schedules, please get in touch with your regular DSV contacts.

In general the air freight market is continues hectic as space is still tight and thus also freight rates may fluctuate rapidly for both imports and exports. Timely confirmation of bookings to carries remains critical and hence we urge to book the shipments as soon as possible.

Congestion in Shanghai airport, status 21st April 2020

In light of massively increased charter operations Shanghai airport is currently facing severe congestion and various bottlenecks in cargo handling. The new customs regulations for medical products and personal protective equipment originating in China have triggered disruptions in the export clearance procedures. Sudden changes in the governmental regulation have also led to huge volumes of cargo being stranded in warehouses and terminals and shortage of labour is making the situation even more difficult. Waiting times for trucks to unload at the Shanghai airport vary currently from 48 up to 72 hours. In addition China will more or less close down for Labour Day holiday from 28th April to 5th May and it is recommended not to arrange shipments during the holiday to prevent additional storage and late customs penalty.

In order to keep the material flows running DSV Shanghai is working closely with their network partners to divert traffics to alternative Chinese airports, also for example rail transportation or combined Air-Sea freight via Korea, Taiwan or Singapore may provide a viable option for your shipments. For more detailed information on the situation and the alternatives, please get in touch with your regular DSV contacts.

Status 26th March 2020

Air freight
A vast portion of passenger flights are not currently operating to and from EU-area which has resulted in heavy congestion the cargo market.  Cargo aircrafts are operational but are suffering from capacity restrains. We are offering alternative routings to tackle congestion on the market e.g.  DSV own freighter can offer routings to Asia and North America several times per week.
Sea freight
Vessel capacity is still significantly lower than normal, which is affecting especially FCL export shipments. LCL export services are currently working normally.

Status 13th March 2020

Air freight
Majority of passenger flights have been cancelled or will be cancelled to/from Far East Asia, North-America, Middle-East and EU. Freighter network is still operational but has capacity restrictions. We are looking alternative routings and transport modes to secure the cargo flow to/from the mentioned areas.

Sea freight
Approximately 50% of vessels on the Asia-Europe tradelane were cancelled between end of January and early March due to the COVID-19 epidemic. At the moment the missing capacity is strongly effecting Europe outbound tradelanes as well as other trades based on the Far Eastern lanes, such as import from the Mediterranean. To adjust Baltic feeder services to reduced ocean vessel capacity carriers have voided or postponed a number of feeder services.

The effects are extensive especially on Finland export and they touch all outbound trades. In addition to longer transit times in both import and export there is serious lack of vessel space and container equipment in all export trade lanes. Thanks to changed market conditions new freight surcharges and price increases are being implemented at short notice.

The epidemic is now spreading in Europe but there hasn’t yet been direct effects on sea transports. However, the situation may change rapidly.

Status 5th March 2020

All  21 DSV branches in China, with the exception of Wuhan, are open again. We are operating with an increasing number of staff members in the offices, the remaining employees continue to work from home. While our teams all over China work hard to mitigate any potential impact on our customers’ supply chains to the extent possible, we remain strongly committed to the safety of our employees and operate under strict observance of local rules and regulations. 

As the situation in Wuhan and Hubei province remains particularly serious, the local government continues to enforce measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. All commercial flights to Wuhan’s regional airport have been cancelled for the time being and all roads connecting the province with the rest of China have been restricted. Consequently, DSV’s operations in Hubei remain largely suspended, and we will resume as soon as this is permitted by the local authorities. 

On the news section on DSV Panalpina Group’s webpage you can find an FAQ article regarding the situation with links to regularly updated overview about the status of operations and inland trucking situation in various DSV offices. 

Air freight 
Multiple airlines have either suspended or reduced the number of passenger flights to and from Mainland China. Considering that a large part of cargo is moved on passenger planes, this has approximately halved overall capacity and is putting significant pressure on the remaining freighters. Considering the current epidemic spread in other countries such as Korea, Japan and Italy, this situation is not expected to get a lot better soon. More restrictions and changes in flight schedules are therefore likely.

At the same time, we are now observing manufacturing companies slowly restarting production at Chinese factories which will means we will see over the coming weeks an increase in demand to move goods, hence increasing pressure on outbound capacity and rates. 

We are working closely with the airlines to identify transport possibilities including alternatives such as charter flights to and from China. To support the need of capacity in and out of China, DSV is positioning its charter network to offer customers 100% DSV controlled capacity and we have already launched regular charter flights between China and USA. 

Sea freight 
In recent weeks shipowners have cancelled a large number of departures and more cancellations are likely to be announced. It is expected that production in China will ramp up in the coming weeks and terminal and pick-up/delivery services are improving with drivers returning, while still facing road limitations in certain districts as part of local government efforts to contain the Corona situation. 

The available space for reefer containers in the ports of Shanghai, Ningbo and Tianjin (Xingang) is generally overloaded. Some shipowners have started to unload and temporarily store reefer containers destined for China in other ports before arrival in China. We will inform our customers separately if your freight is affected. We will make every effort to the best of our knowledge and belief to ensure that your freight is delivered, but please understand that we must charge the resulting additional fees to the freight recipients.

Road transport 
Currently, strict regulations complicate both road freight and passenger travel in China. Combined with the self-quarantine rules for all people returning to their workplaces, it still limits truck capacities due to limited drivers and equipment more in Central Region, whereas North-east is improving

Road transportation in China remains overall impacted by driver shortages and various road restrictions, while we see improvement of the overall situation over the last week especially, and North China seem to be less affected. To what extent trucking is impaired depends on the nature of the transportation. In general the situation is less critical for cargo movement that occur within a given province or municipality, while cross-provincial remains more challenging. 

Alternative options for transports to/from China
DSV staff is working continuously on identifying different possibilities and alternative routings in order to minimize the effects of this exceptional market situation. Rail or combined Sea-Air transportation can provide a viable alternative for both import and export shipments between Asia and Europe. Your usual DSV contact persons are available for latest updates on the market situation as well as for more information about the alternative options for transporting your shipments. 

Status 19th February 2020

Situation in China is still far from normal as measures to control the epidemic are affecting business and life in the country. The Chinese government has, however, implemented measures to slowly normalize the situation. Restrictions have been removed especially in the parts of the country least affected by the coronavirus epidemic.

Most DSV offices are either fully or partially operational but local restrictions concerning for example public transportation impact employees timely access to their workplaces.

Factories have also started to resume production and most ports and airports are operational. Demand for transportation services is still reduced and both air and ocean capacity is significantly reduced. This is not expected to change during February. According to the latest information the next import train from Hefei to Helsinki will depart as per schedule on Feb 29th and will then continue with weekly departures.

Road transportation is still causing bottlenecks but trucking services have been eased by removing traffic restrictions and streamlining driver bureaucracy.

In certain cases air freight can be routed via neighbouring countries such as Korea, Japan and Singapore. The Sea-Air service via Dubai is also available.

Status 14th February 2020

Most offices and factories are closed or operating with minimum staff. We have received unconfirmed reports that more workplaces will resume operation on Feb 17th, but it is still too early to estimate how the situation will change next week.

More vessel calls have been cancelled due to limited demand. It is expected that the situation will normalize in March although further setbacks are possible.

Plenty of airfreight capacity is missing in the Chinese market. However, for urgent shipments we will try and arrange alternative routing whenever possible.

Trucking services are becoming increasingly difficult. Trucking across provincial borders is especially challenging and in some cases consignments have been placed under quarantine for 1-2 weeks. This slows down trucking which is already problematic due to traffic restrictions and lack of drivers and equipment.

Status 11th February 2020

According to earlier information Chinese workplaces were expected to open on Feb 10th after prolonged holiday. In practice many factories and offices are still closed or only partially operational. Situation varies between provinces and even between districts making it difficult to obtain a clear picture of the situation.

The majority of DSV offices in continental China are only partially staffed or the available staff is working from home. 

The reduced air and sea freight capacity is not causing major issues thanks to very low demand. This may, however, change rapidly when factories resume work. 

Road transportation in China is causing increasing challenges due to the shortage of drivers and road traffic restrictions. Especially cross-provincial traffic is subject to restrictions and also some cities restrict traffic within their jurisdictions. 

Status 6th February 2020
The majority of international flights to China are cancelled. Chinese ports are operational, but some vessel calls have been omitted due to lack of demand.  Certain rail services between China and Europe are also cancelled or postponed.

The availability of trucking services in China is restricted due to government restrictions and shortage of drivers. These also apply to trucking to ports and airports, but problems have thus far been avoided thanks to low demand. We expect situation to worsen from Feb 10th when holiday is finished and demand for transportation increases. 

There are media reports about quarantines and restrictions in Zhejiang province, for example in Hangzhou, Wenzhou and Ningbo.  Enforced restrictions apply mainly to individuals leaving home, and based on latest information almost all workplaces in Zhejiang will open as planned on Feb 10th. Certain districts in Wenzhou are currently under lockdown, but we don’t expect this to impact the logistics industry.

Status 3rd February 2020

Due to coronavirus outbreak Chinese New Year holidays have been extended until Feb 10th which also applies to DSV offices in China.  Some staff members work from home but in general all operations are currently halted. The main reason for this is Chinese workplaces being closed until next week.

Latest update per mode of transport:


The major airlines have discontinued or announced to discontinue direct flights to China. In addition, import formalities and deliveries are halted due to extended holiday. It is possible to transport certain urgent air freight consignments but these need to be checked case by case from our air export department. 

Air imports from China are practically halted as factories are closed due to extended holiday.


Chinese ports are operational but for example export documents may not be available due to offices being closed. Also, carriers have cancelled some week 6 departures due to lack of demand.

LCL departures from China have been cancelled on week 6 and, at the moment, it is uncertain when the next LCL containers will be shipped. This is mainly affected by extended holiday and when the Chinese shippers return to work.  

Sea freight to China operates without problems.


Trains in transit on Hefei-Helsinki service are running as scheduled and China-Kazakhstan border crossing operates without problems. The next departure from Hefei has been postponed from Feb 15th to Feb 22nd due to extended holiday in China. The next eastbound train from Helsinki departs next weekend.

Status 31st January 2020

Several airlines, including Finnair, have cancelled their flights to Shanghai and mainland China. The extended closure of most factories and offices have already disturbed domestic transport and resulted in backlogs and congestion in warehouses, terminals, airports and ports, not only Shanghai but also elsewhere in China.

Please, contact your own DSV contact person to get more specific information about your shipments.

Status 30th January 2020

National extension of the Chinese New Year

The celebration of the Chinese New Year, with holidays normally lasting up to 30th January, has officially been extended at least until 2nd February. The extended closure of most factories and offices is very likely to disturb domestic transport as well as imports and exports and may result in backlogs and congestion in warehouses, terminals, airports and ports. Also our DSV offices in China have extended their holidays and are expected to return to work depending on the local regulations in each province.

Based on information available on 29th January, the following extensions of Chinese New Year have been announced:

  • The latest announcement from Suzhou is that businesses may not open until Saturday, 8th February.
  • Shanghai has announced that all enterprises will remain closed till 9th February.
  • Zhejiang Province announced it is delaying return to work and school to 9th February. 
  • Guangdong Province announced that it will delay resumption of work and school to after 9th February and 17th-24th February, respectively.
  • Chongqing also announced that non-essential enterprises in the administrative area will remain closed till 9th February.
  • Provinces of Jiangsu and Yunnan announced that non-essential enterprises must delay work to 9th February. 

Quarantine in Wuhan

The city of Wuhan has been quarantined along with 16 other neighbouring cities in Hubei Province. Local businesses will remain closed until further notice. As a result of the quarantine train, air and other modes of transportation have been cut off. Pick-ups from and deliveries to the quarantine areas have been blocked in order to minimize the virus outbreak.   

Import and export

In addition to the above mentioned Chinese Year extensions and traffic restrictions, various airlines have already informed of cancelling flights and there are also some rumours of disruptions in port operations. Due to these unexpected conditions backlogs have started to build up in various airports, ports, terminals and warehouses. It is likely that the situation may also affect the storage and freight costs. While the possible additional charges are still today unknown, they are yet to be expected in these extreme situations, which are outside the control of DSV.

In the current situation it may be wise to consider temporarily holding your export cargo at origin or rerouting to other airports within China or Asia. This will also help to avoid unnecessary storage charges, that will apply even if government regulations prevent consignees from a timely pickup.

If you are importing from or exporting to China, we recommend that you contact your suppliers / customers in China to learn more about local situation and circumstances that may affect your supply chain.

Air freight to Shanghai (PVG) temporarily suspended 

Due to governmental instructions any factories in Shanghai will not resume production until 10th February. In practice this means that freight arriving into PVG can not be released or picked-up and warehouses will be congested. DSV Shanghai has informed that no more freight should be sent to PVG unless the consignee confirms they can collect and customs clear the cargo. This instruction is valid until further notice. For more detailed information, please get in touch with your regular contact person. 

DSV is closely monitoring the situation

In DSV, we naturally follow developments closely and keep in continuous contact with our colleagues in China. DSV China has set up a working group that focuses on following the development of the virus outbreak and is tasked with collecting information from authorities at national and local level. 

While we are doing everything we can to limit any impact on our customers’ business activities, DSV is following the guidelines issued by the government of China. We must also stress that we will not place any DSV employees in potential harm to go above and beyond in minimising the impacts of this extreme situation.  

We are updating this news article as we receive more information. You will find the latest updates from the top of this page. However, please be aware that as the situation may change rapidly, your regular DSV contact persons are available for first-hand information on possible restrictions, additional costs and/or alternative routing options.