When you book a shipment, of course you want and expect it to go as planned. While we always strive to deliver your cargo on time, shipping and port delays can happen, and we know this can be a huge challenge for many business owners.

So, what are some of the reasons why a container can get delayed? Read our list of the top reasons behind local and overseas shipping delays and how you can prepare for them.

Reason 1: Extraordinary events and external factors in the shipping world

Some shipping or port delays might be totally out of your or your logistics partners’ control. For example, external factors such as the weather, piracy, wars, fire and extraordinary events. These are described as “force majeure”. Hurricanes, cyclones and many other natural catastrophes can happen, and unfortunately, they can have severe impacts on ocean shipping.

One example of this was the vessel blockage in the Suez Canal in 2021. With about 12% of global trade passing through the Suez Canal each year, the trade route provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. The blockage completely stopped this global trade for a week but caused cargo delays to continue well past that time.

These factors should play a role when forecasting your supply chain. To prepare yourself, check out the different methods of supply chain forecasting.

Reason 2: Schedule changes and traffic challenges

Shipments might get delayed because of schedule changes or traffic challenges, especially when using inland transportation. This especially happens during peak seasons such as Chinese New Year or the holiday season. Many factories close for over a week during such holidays, with full productivity not resuming for almost a month.

Logistics companies, carriers, and shippers need to deal with this demand and the subsequent backlogs and shipping delays once regular working schedules resume. Therefore, we recommend always including extra days in your schedule, especially during peak seasons where road and port congestion can increase more than usual.

Reason 3: Issues at customs

When you are shipping cargo internationally, you need to present various shipping documents. Sometimes you might forget about specific documents or fill them out incorrectly. Authorities might also check your cargo and spend time performing further inspections. Furthermore, you might need to watch out for possible changes in customs declarations.

To avoid such problems, get familiar with the most important documents when shipping internationally. You can also rely upon our customs services to help you navigate any unforeseen problems.

Reason 4: Lack of clarity related to required actions

With every shipment comes a set of actions to ensure it arrives on time. You and your logistics partner will have different responsibilities, and it’s important to know who needs to do which tasks and when they need to do them.

At Maersk, we inform you as best as possible about what you need to do  — for example, when and how to submit Shipping Instructions. You can easily follow along with your shipment's milestones online or check our FAQs for more information.

Reason 5: Inadequate technology

Sometimes, shipping delays might be caused by your logistics provider’s inadequate technology. This can be outdated software or long processes to book your cargo via phone and email chains.

If you are shipping with Maersk, you can easily book shipments online and rest assured that we use the latest technology to transport your cargo quickly and track it all the way! 

Reason 6: Port congestions or port strikes

As already outlined, too many containers can lead to port congestion — either caused by peak seasons and extraordinary events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, by port strikes or labour issues. Such factors can result in weeks of port delay.

Reason 7: Delays in cargo production

Mostly, suppliers provide the shipper with a date when the production of their goods is supposed to be finished. Then, the shipper plans the transportation accordingly. However, if the shipper forgets to add a buffer for such potential delays, this can again result in a delay for the overall transport.

Our tip is to always plan in some buffer for production delays. This way, you can prevent further delays with transportation.

Reason 8: Rolled shipments

A rolled shipment means that ocean freight cargo has not been loaded onto the vessel it was meant to sail on. This happens when carrier capacity decreases while the customer demand increases. Rollings can also occur when you don’t have the right documentation for your shipment.

Choosing the right logistics provider can prevent such hassle. Getting equipment and space prioritisation and guaranteed loading of your cargo can be the most efficient way for the most time-sensitive cargo.

Reason 9: Damaged cargo during transportation

Another factor that should not be forgotten is that your cargo can accidentally be damaged during its transportation. It’s rare, but it can happen.

Value Protect provides an extra layer of security when transporting your cargo with Maersk. It gives you peace of mind by extending the liability for terms of carriage to cover aspects like fire, theft, and bad weather. Value Protect can be applied to all commodities and has a simple claim process.

What you can do to avoid shipping delays

If you are ready to start shipping, you can sign up for free to Maersk and see routes and schedules. We try our utmost to manage expectations about space and equipment availability at each port. We also keep you updated about the current shipping situation, including delays, online and via email.