Congestion and Trade Update as we count down to 2021

With a few short weeks until we ring in 2021, there is plenty happening in the shipping world that will shape the start of the New Year.  Read on for information and recommendations and reach out to your Hillebrand representative to find transport alternatives for your current and planned supply chain needs. Here is a brief overview of what to watch for:

UK – Tariff Relief, Brexit and Congestion

The good news for the US is that the UK has announced that they would abandon the EU tariffs on American products in the New year.  Read the press release on the US Trade Office here.  For any members who have trade between the UK and European countries, especially for fine and rare items, increased paperwork and documentation for cross-border shipping is to be expected along with other rules and regulations on labeling.  Hillebrand has prepared more information on potentially required documentation here. For shipments to/from the United Kingdom, be aware that port congestion has prompted carrier schedule disruption and congestion surcharges. Charges vary per shipping line and origin region.

US Ports – chassis shortages, trucking demand, congestion – the volume buildup since late July first hit the US West Coast and has continued to exceed the available supply of chassis units and issues will likely continue through the end of the year.  Then increased demand started impacting all US inbound deep sea terminals, and rail ramps.  The outbound flow of containers also has a bottleneck, as demand for empty container turnaround, especially on the transpacific trade, has ocean carriers prioritizing moving empty units over loaded export units on outbound vessels.  This is impacting shipments of bulk wine and spirits and bottled alcoholic beverages which are heavier than other commodities and easier to target with tonnage weight restrictions.    

Australia / New Zealand – there is no relief in sight for the congestion impacting Australia and New Zealand, which are on the same ocean schedule string.   When vessels skip calling on Auckland port, this has a major impact on the supply of container equipment for wine exports, particularly for flexi grade units, but for all equipment types at present.  Expect delays for shipments for imports from Oceania and surcharges for Auckland and Sydney.

Spain –  The Bilbao strike was called off last week as negotiations resumed.  However after a month and a half of strike action, the congestion backlog is massive.  It will take a considerable amount of time to move towards normalcy and congestion surcharges announced by carriers will continue until terminal operations are fluid again.

US Regulatory News

Congress must pass a spending deal to avoid a government shutdown before midnight tonight which could potentially include COVID relief and possibly CBMTRA/Craft Beverage Modernization Tax Reform Act.  If not included in today’s omnibus bill, CBMTRA which has bipartisan support, could potentially be included on a separate tax extender package before the end of the year.

For anyone importing beverages from overseas, the required FDA registration and renewal period does end on December 31st.  We encourage you to check with your existing and any new suppliers on compliance.  For any questions please send your inquiries to


Hillebrand as our freight forwarding partner is working to find solutions to minimize the disruption for our members wherever possible. 

To improve outcomes, we encourage the following:

  • Work with your local offices to provide advance notice on bookings to secure capacity and vessel allocation.
  • Adjust lead times and spacing of booking to give the most flexibility on available services (transit times) and shipping volumes per week.

Reefer supply:

  • Consider Hillebrand insulation options for seafreight from origin.  For inland destinations across the USA, Hillebrand’s Winter Wine Program is available to cross-dock freight into heated trucks for delivery to door.

Rush orders via airfreight:

  • If current delays for ocean shipment, or securing equipment will jeopardize your timelines, Hillebrand offers airfreight options as well.

Should you have any questions or need more information please contact your Hillebrand representative.  You can also manage pending shipments, pickups, invoices, set up alerts and more on myHillebrand