BRi USA News - China-Europe Air Cargo Rates Hit New Highs on Medical Demand


Dear all Valued Customers


The rush to fly urgently needed medical equipment and pharmaceuticals from China to Europe amid the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has pushed rates on the route to record levels.


Rates are being driven up because of heavy demand for medical protective equipment that is in short supply at hospitals across Europe as the coronavirus outbreak intensifies, while capacity is limited by the suspension of passenger flights to and from China. The travel bans introduced in February removed 60 percent of air cargo capacity from the global market, and Accenture estimates that only 20 percent of the world’s passenger planes are still flying.


As one expert said, “although 99 percent of the world’s goods are shipped by sea, “when we get into an emergency like now, that 1 percent that is air freight becomes ever more valuable.


Packages replacing passengers


With no passengers to carry, some airlines have deployed their empty planes to carry cargo, especially on routes out of China that supplies most of the world’s medical equipment.


In April, Swiss World Cargo will operate 10 Airbus 340 passenger flights from China to Switzerland to ship a total of 200 tons of personal protection equipment for health workers. Other airlines are using passenger planes in the same manner, loading cargo on the main decks and stacking boxes across empty seats. Among the carriers are Etihad Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific, and Air Canada.


While demand for air cargo is being dominated by medical supplies and equipment, demand still remains for consumer goods and perishables, as well as automotive, high tech, and aerospace products where some factories are still running.


Currently the medical demand is constraining airfreight capacity well beyond normal into the US and around the world, which is driving the costs up significantly. Please reach out to your BRi USA Representative to explore your airfreight options.


U.S. Ports Status Update


Below is a general overview of the operations BRI USA has been able to gather for most major U.S. ports. This list will be updated as information is made available.


Port of Seattle & Tacoma - Terminals at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma continue to support field operations for the U.S. Army Hospital in Seattle. The port is operating regular schedules this week for day shifts, no night shifts. Select terminal(s) are closed Tuesday, April 7 and Friday, April 10.


Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach - The Port of Los Angeles and San Pedro Bay Port Complex are on heightened alert and the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing all inbound vessels. There are currently no reports of any vessel impacts due to COVID-19 at any of the terminals. All Port of Los Angeles terminals are open and operational. 


Port of Houston - Port Houston is open and operational this week, including Friday, April 10. The port also began a weekly disinfecting and sanitizing service of all offices and common areas at Bayport and Barbours Cut Terminals. 


Port of New York/New Jersey - The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is open and operational while still hosting the US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort this week . Port Newark Container Terminal, Maher Terminal, GCT NY, and GCT Bayonne, will all be closed Friday, April 10.   


North Carolina Ports (Wilmington & Charleston) – North Carolina Port is open and operational this week. Terminals in Wilmington, Morehead City and Charlotte will be closed to commercial truck traffic on Friday, April 10, special operating arrangements may be made upon request.  


Port of Georgia (Savannah) - Georgia Port Authority continues to extend the Saturday Gate closure through the entire month of April, 4/4/2020 through 4/25/2020, this includes all services for dry and refrigerated containers. 


COVID-19 Cargo Resolution Team Established by CBP


U.S. Customs and Border and Protection (CBP) has established a COVID-19 Cargo Resolution Team (CCRT) as an effort to coordinate inquiries regarding the importation of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. The team is multidisciplinary to triage incoming inquiries, coordinate with affected ports and respond directly as appropriate.


They are currently fielding facilitation requests from other government agencies and private industry as well as general inquiries regarding the import of medical instruments. The team can be reached at


As a valued customer, we hope that you will continue to trust us to source the best options for your supply chain needs now and into the future. Please feel free to contact your Customer Solutions Representative, should you have any queries or questions regarding USA News.


Keeping you updated,

BRi Customer Solutions Representative

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