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During the COVID-19 Pandemic


The COVID-19 outbreak is disrupting supply chains across business sectors and is impacting ocean freight capacity and rates. This unprecedented situation demands immediate action to guarantee on-time deliveries and prevent workshops and store shelves from going empty. While air freight remains the fastest transportation mode, it may not be the most adapted to your business’s own specific needs considering its CO₂ impact, premium cost, and capacity challenges. In these uncertain times, lean on a forwarder’s expertise: read on to explore 3 agile alternatives to boost your supply chain today – and for better times, too.

1) Rail Freight from China to Europe (& Back): the New Silk Road

Containers do not only belong on massive vessels and truck trailers: all across China – be it Northern, Western, or Southern China, or off the coast – containers can be moved via an extensive network of rail freight connections to all major European destinations via Kazakhstan, Russia & Belarus. While rail has rapidly expanded over the past years, the interest of European buyers is rising with the COVID-19 outbreak. As ocean freight services are being rolled over and air freight rates are soaring, the rail freight capacity increases – at a reasonable cost. Of course, DHL’s rail capabilities also mean you can ship your cargo from Europe to South-East Asia via rail.

  • Rail freight provides more than pre- or on-carriage transit, as it has developed into a well-established alternative main transportation mode between Asia and Europe.

    Rail freight is cheaper than air freight while being up to 21 days faster than traditional ocean transportation. For example, an express service connects the Chinese hinterland to Western Europe in approximately 12 days – an ideal alternative if time matters in your industry.

  • The logistics industry is committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, and rail freight is the main contributor to this global initiative.

    Rail’s CO₂ impact is comparable to that of ocean freight and boasts in some cases an even better CO₂ performance door-to-door. And if the train is powered by sustainably sourced electricity, cargo shipments can achieve their lowest possible carbon footprint.

  • DHL Global Forwarding can serve your cargo regardless of its origin country. Shippers and buyers can also ship their cargo from surrounding markets like Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea via ocean freight to China’s mainland ports to connect it with the Chinese rail hubs and transport them to Europe via rail thereafter.

    Similarly, using DHL’s road freight capacity opens your rail freight shipment to Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand – and the rest of South-East Asia.

With a high departure frequency and stable lead times, there have never been more trains available for your FCL or LCL cargo, but also for sensitive temperature-controlled goods transported in reefer containers. The world’s largest companies from all industry sectors demand rail freight options from their freight forwarder – shouldn’t yours, too?

2) LCL Expedited: Shipping to the USA Just Got Faster

Is your cargo heading towards the United States? LCL Expedited cuts lead times from Shanghai and any Chinese location to the East Coast and the entire USA by up to 20 days compared to traditional ocean freight. This places the weekly service as an ideal middle ground between air and sea freight – how does it work?

  • LCL Expedited uses dedicated smaller ships. Their smaller size means that they can navigate across the Pacific Ocean in 10 days, whereas the mega-vessels that became the norm for ocean freight transportation need 14.

    The speed gains continue while ashore. By using an alternative terminal, the smaller LCL Expedited ships bypass the Long Beach port congestion. And because there are less containers on the ship, it takes just 48 hours to unload your cargo – instead of the average 4 to 5 days for larger vessels.

  • LCL Expedited also optimizes pre- and on-carriage. Where the cargo cut-off date is traditionally set up to a week prior to vessel departure, LCL Expedite cargo can be dropped at the port terminal just 48 hours in advance.

    Once in Los Angeles/Long Beach, the cargo is loaded onto an express truck that will ride all the way to the consignee’s door – without stopping at any other location – reaching its final destination in just 3 to 5 days.

  • In a traditional LCL shipment bound for New York, for example, your cargo would normally be unloaded from its container in Los Angeles/Long Beach and put on a truck to a New York area container freight station. before final delivery, where it would also be cleared for customs.

    LCL Expedited shipments are cleared for duties while the cargo is still being unloaded from its container, directly in Los Angeles/Long Beach, before being made available for express trucking within 48 hours. As the cleared cargo heads straight to the consignee’s door, there is no need for another storage location.

If your next LCL shipment needs a transit time boost, ask your DHL Global Forwarding business partner for an LCL Expedited shipment.

3) Miami Multimodal Express: Combining Air & Ocean to Deliver Faster Than Ever

Creating the ideal express multimodal solution should mix together the agility of air transportation, the adaptability of dedicated inland solutions, and the cost-consciousness of ocean shipping.

To connect your LCL, FCL cargo or box shipment from China to any Latin American country, Miami Multimodal Express (MMEX) uses sea freight as the primary transportation mode from China to the USA, but relies on a mix of express trucking (to the Miami hub) and air freight (to all key Latin American destinations) to both cut lead times and save costs. A cornerstone of this service, Miami offers an optimal location as multimodal hub.

  • Similarly to the LCL Expedited service explored above, MMEX requires smaller, specific ships that reduce transit times and bypass Long Beach’s port typical congestion.

    And much like LCL Expedited, MMEX relies on an express trucking service, both across the Chinese mainland and from Los Angeles/Long Beach to Miami. To guarantee the tightest lead times, the cut-off date at the Shanghai port is set at just 24 hours prior to departure. Once the cargo reaches Los Angeles/Long Beach, it can be loaded onto the express truck that will take it straight to Miami.

    With superior coordination, the goods take off to Latin America within 48 hours after arrival at the Miami hub.

  • What sets MMEX apart from LCL Expedite is the systematic usage of air freight to reach the arrival location. Miami Airport’s air freight rates are generally lower, and capacity is prone to less volatility than that of the main Chinese hubs, especially during peak season or disrupting global events. Through centralized coordination, the MMEX air freight journey is pre-booked just in time to guarantee capacity and optimal rates.

    Using air freight on shorter distances also preserves the environmental responsibility of your shipment, relying on ocean freight for the long-haul journey to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Good multimodal ideas go a long way. Los Angeles Multimodal Express (LMEX) uses the same express trucking and ocean service as MMEX but relies on Los Angeles as a hub to reach Canada, Mexico, or Europe via air.

    Much like Miami, air freight rates and capacity at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to Canada, Mexico, and Europe are indeed less exposed to global events than that of the main Asian hubs.

From the Shanghai hub to any American or European location, from the seaport terminal to the airport tarmac, true freight forwarding expertise optimizes each link of the chain to cut lead times to a minimum. Click on the link below to reach out to our dedicated multimodal team and find out how alternative shipping solutions can serve your business during COVID-19 times – and for good.

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