BRi USA News - Passenger Airlines Morph into Cargo Carriers


Dear all Valued Customers


With freight capacity scarce, the number of passenger airlines offering dedicated charter flights is proliferating.


More passenger airlines are helping fill the severe shortage in freight capacity by turning their aircraft into cargo-only airplanes to haul critical medical supplies, foodstuffs and other economically essential goods. The rapid implosion of air travel as countries closed borders to contain the coronavirus outbreak forced airlines to ground most of their fleets, especially widebody planes used in intercontinental service. Lower-deck space in passenger planes represents about half the worldwide capacity for moving goods – and even more between North America and Europe.


With one million flights cancelled through June 30, there aren’t enough all-cargo planes to make up the difference and air freight rates are shooting up as a result. A one-way charter for a full freighter on key routes can cost up to $1 million today, four times the rate before the crisis, according to industry experts.


Airlines are relying heavily, but not exclusively, on large aircraft such as the Airbus A350, and the Boeing 777 and 787 that carry huge amounts of cargo even when loaded with passengers and baggage. Much of the activity at the moment is trans-Atlantic, but airlines are also dispatching cargo-only flights between North America and South America, and Australia, and between Europe and Asia. Some carriers are being creative by putting cargo in the seats of the passenger compartment, secured by netting and other restraints, to maximize efficiency. And a few are offering multi-party, less-than-full aircraft charters for importers and exporters that don’t have enough volume to rent an entire plane.


Airlines making the shift to utilize passenger airplanes include Air Canada, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad Airways, Air New Zealand, China Eastern Airlines, Cathay Pacific and International Airlines Group (IAG, parent company of British Airways).


While not every plane is equipped with the safety mechanisms to carry all cargo, such as pharmaceuticals, airlines are doing their best to accommodate as much cargo as possible. For more information on flight availability, please reach out to your assigned BRi representative  


Additional Section 301 Product Exclusions Announced, Select Medical Supplies Included


The United States Trade Representative has announced additional exclusions from the China Section 301 tariffs for List 4 goods. Included in this round of exclusions are 7 product specific exclusions and five 10 digit HTS codes. The provisional HTS code is 9903.8844 for these exclusions that are retroactive to September, 1, 2019 and remain in effect until September 1, 2020. Importers should review the newly excluded products and apply for refunds of any tariffs paid on such goods since Sept. 1, 2019. Importers may utilize these exclusions for any product that meets the descriptions in the USTR notice, even if they did not request it.


For more information on Section 301 tariffs, including exclusions and how to apply for duty refunds, please contact  


Port 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, Washington, are operating while implementing contingency plans. The ports have identified off-dock/near-dock storage to be used to divert freight in case of a temporary shutdown of a terminal due to COVID-19. These locations will also be used for storage should a surge in volume occur over the next few months. An adjustment for the Tacoma Terminal has been made and no trucks will be accepted after 4:00 p.m. each day. 


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 our terminals. All Port of Los Angeles terminals are open and operational and are conducting business as usual. In addition to the implemented sanitation hours, the port has reviewed their space and they have plenty of space to store containers. The terminal tarmacs also have ample space. The port is currently working with partners to prioritize working containers with medical supplies.


Port of Houston - The Houston Ship Channel and the 200-plus private terminals and eight public terminals that comprise the greater Port of Houston remain operating and open for business.


Port of Baltimore – Low cargo volumes have triggered a holiday closure March 30-31, but the port operator will open an hour early (6:00 a.m.) April 1-3.


Port of Boston (Massport) – The Massachusetts Port Authority continues to operate the Conley Container Terminal while working with local and federal authorities as well as the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure seamless operations at all port facilities. While monitoring manufacturing abroad as well as forecasted volumes, the terminal has adjusted hours to 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday until further notice.


Port of Virginia (Norfolk) - The Norfolk International Terminals and Virginia International Gateway handled their first container of COVID-19 test kits and protective gear this week. They are working with their customers and carriers to ensure all medical shipments are given priority for imports by communicating with Longshoremen to discharge the container from the vessel, ensure it is pre-pulled for pickup, and arranging appointments with truckers.


North Carolina Ports - The ports of Wilmington and Morehead City and Charlotte Inland Port – continue to operate on a normal schedule and do not anticipate any changes to operations at this time. The port has implemented a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) to ensure the safety and well-being of personnel, contractors and visitors while maintaining continued operations during any crisis or event.


Port of Jacksonville (Jaxport) - JAXPORT’s cargo terminals remain open with no restrictions and normal business hours at their gated facilities.


Port of Miami – Open and operational as usual. Effective Monday, March 30, the terminals will no longer supply truckers with Haz Mat or Dangerous Goods documents at the terminal in an effort to maintain social distancing. Truckers must have these documents prior to arriving at the terminal. 


Port of Georgia (Savannah) - The port continues steady operation with normal, 24-hour vessel operations and terminal services, as well as Monday-Friday truck gate hours from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Savannah. The container terminal has additional storage space if needed.  


Port of New Orleans - Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) cargo operations and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) operations continue to function as normal. Ocean carriers are following the U.S. Coast Guard’s strict protocol, which includes additional reporting and screening requirements for vessels prior to arrival. NOPB rail services also remain uninterrupted.


Please note that these select West Coast terminals are observing a holiday on March 31.


Philippines – Manila Ports


This week we received second-hand reports that South Terminals in Manila were possibly affected by Labour action associated with COVID-19. This morning we learned those reports were inaccurate and can report:


•          All ports are operating normally and regularly.

•          The PHL Bureau of Customs is on skeletal work force, thus, the processing and releasing is delayed, but functional.

•          All mass transport has been suspended, thus, causing some transit delays.

•          The PHL government has given the directive - "cargo must move unhampered."  


China/Hong Kong/European Ports


Note that our carriers have informed us that all China/Hong Kong ports are open and operating at normal levels, excluding Wuhan, which is still awaiting approval from local authorities to reopen. European ports are also open and operating at normal levels, excluding Le Havre, which is experiencing some port congestion. Note the full list from Evergreen here.


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.


Feel free to contact your customer solutions representative, should you have any queries or concerns regarding USA News.


Keeping you updated,

BRi Customer Solutions Team


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