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blogs / 08 MAR 2021

Global Pandemic: Ongoing Impact on Household Goods Shipments

Helen Gruschow

hhg shipment

At the start of the pandemic, global shipments inevitably either slowed down or stopped completely. As demand continued to build over the last 12 months, this situation has only become worse with time, impacting international assignments and organizations’ mobility programs. Here, we discuss the specific household goods challenges, as well as key recommendations that organizations can follow to help reduce the impact shipment delays have on relocation programs.

Many shipping companies have reduced the number of departures out of ports. In some instances, weekly routes have been reduced to twice-weekly or even monthly, dependent on demand. Productivity at the ports themselves has also decreased, as the number of dockworkers has been reduced to adhere to social distancing restrictions. At Cartus, we have seen a significant delay across U.S. West Coast ports with multiple container vessels unable to offload.

APAC is another region where we are seeing especially long delays. The rise in online shopping by global consumers (and the fact many items purchased online originate from Asia) may have contributed to these regional delays. APAC shipments are also being hindered by a significant imbalance between a surplus of empty containers located in Western regions, without the need to return them to ports in APAC who desperately need them.


Increased Cost

The reduction of shipments and imbalance of containers has caused freight rates to rise, especially in APAC. The increased cost in sea freight rates has meant rising demand for air transport, elevating air rates too.


In addition to COVID-19, Brexit also continues to impact shipments into and out of the UK. We are currently experiencing delays and continuing changes in custom requirements for intra-EU shipments into the UK. Common trade routes such as the Dover-Calais channel crossing is especially congested for customs and we expect these delays to continue for the foreseeable future, while the UK continues to transition out of the European Union.

Cartus Recommendations

  • Preparedness remains key. If your organization has scheduled moves that include household goods shipments, then let your relocation services provider know as early as possible. This will help to ensure any possible delays are built into your mobility schedule.

  • Set expectations with employees. International assignees will experience longer-than-expected wait times for their household goods to arrive and they should be told of this before the move.

  • Ensure your relocation budget reflects potential additional costs. In addition to the increased freight and air rates, employees that experience particularly long delays in receiving goods may prefer to remain in temporary accommodation for a longer period. Alternatively, furniture rental options (where available) can be considered as an interim arrangement.

We continue to work closely with our selected household goods partners, to ensure we minimize the impact this situation may have on our clients and their relocating employees, and we will provide any relevant updates when they arise.

Headshot of Blog Author Helen Gruschow

Helen Gruschow

Helen Gruschow is responsible for managing the Cartus International Moving Services Network in addition to the International Household Goods Quality Control team. During her 15 years with Cartus, Helen also has worked in Real Estate Services, Government and Property Management.