Navigating Chinese New Year Shipping Delays

Navigating Chinese New Year Shipping Delays


As the Chinese New Year (CNY), also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, quickly approaches, importers must brace for the “Chinese New Year effect” on international shipping. This significant holiday in China is not just an important cultural event but also a period that heavily affects global supply chains, including causing notable shipping delays.

When is the Chinese New Year 2024?

The Chinese New Year in 2024 runs from February 10 to February 24, concluding with the Lantern Festival. This period, spanning approximately 15 days, sees the first seven days celebrated as public holidays. During this time, a slowdown in business operations is common as many Chinese factories and businesses close well in advance, significantly impacting the global supply chain. 

What causes the shipping delays?

This holiday season is a time when many in China and other Asian countries engage in family reunions, leading to a major slowdown in production as factories and offices close to celebrate the new year. Carriers often adjust their service strings to accommodate the decreased output. 

Further complicating the situation are recent changes in tariffs, which have led to a shift in sourcing to other countries like Vietnam. These modifications are having a significant impact on the capacity of vessels and sometimes result in rolled bookings. 

2024 Chinese New Year Logistics Timeline for Importers and Exporters

As businesses begin slowing down or stopping production for the holiday, importers and exporters should use this timeline to plan their activities. It’s crucial to book shipments well in advance, anticipate delays and have contingency plans in place.

  • Early January 2024 – Preparation phase begins: Businesses start to prepare for the upcoming shutdown. This is the time to finalize and confirm orders before the holiday rush. 
  • Late January 2024 – Warning period: This is the last chance for importers and exporters to book shipments. Expect increased demand and limited capacity. 
  • Early February 2024 (1-2 weeks before CNY) – Partial shutdowns begin: Some factories begin to reduce operations. Ports operate but may start experiencing slowdowns due to increased traffic and reduced workforce. 
  • February 10, 2024 (Chinese New Year’s Eve) – Widespread shutdowns: The majority of factories and businesses close. Ports and transportation services are still operational but at reduced capacity. 
  • February 11-17, 2024 (CNY week) – Peak of CNY celebrations: Almost all factories and many businesses are closed. Ports operate with minimal staff; expect significant delays. 
  • February 18-24, 2024 – Extended holiday period: Some businesses start to reopen, but many workers are still traveling back. Port operations remain slow. 
  • Late February 2024 (Post-CNY) – Gradual resumption of work: More factories and businesses begin reopening. Ports start to clear backlogs but still operate below full capacity. 
  • Early March 2024 – Return to full operations: Most factories and businesses are back to full operation. Ports work to clear any remaining backlogs and return to normal efficiency levels. 
  • Mid-March 2024 onwards – Stabilization period: Operations across businesses and ports have stabilized. Normal shipping schedules resume. 

How To Avoid Shipping Delays

Booking shipments before the Chinese New Year is crucial due to the significant slowdown in manufacturing and shipping activities during this period. Typically, it’s advisable to book your shipments at least 3-4 weeks in advance. However, this can vary depending on several factors:

  • Manufacturing Time: If your goods are still in the manufacturing stage, you need to account for the time it will take to complete production. Many factories in China start winding down operations one to two weeks before the Chinese New Year. 
  • Demand and Capacity: The weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year often see a surge in shipping demand. This can lead to limited availability and higher prices. Booking early helps avoid these issues. 
  • Type of Shipment: The mode of transport (air, sea, rail, etc.) can affect how early you need to book. Air freight generally requires less lead time than sea freight. 
  • Destination and Transit Time: Consider the transit time to your destination. Longer transit times might require earlier booking. 
  • Customs and Documentation: Allow time for customs clearance and documentation, as these processes can be slower during the holiday period. 
  • Buffer for Delays: It’s wise to include a buffer for unexpected delays, especially during this busy period. 

Given these considerations, a general recommendation is to start planning your shipment at least 4-6 weeks before the Chinese New Year. However, it’s best to consult with your freight forwarder or shipping company for specific advice based on your circumstances.

Optimize your logistics with Ascent this Chinese New Year

In navigating the complexities of logistics during the Chinese holiday, Ascent Global Logistics stands as your trusted partner. We specialize in providing time-critical solutions across various modes of transportation. Whether it’s air, ocean, or land transport, our international freight forwarding solutions ensure your shipments are managed efficiently and effectively, even during the busiest times.


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