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COVID-19 Keeping your freight moving in uncertain times

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What you need to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep your freight moving

  View Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alerts  

Click questions to reveal answers.

01   Does Universal Logistics have a plan in place to deal with the growing spread of COVID-19?

Yes. Universal is monitoring the COVID-19 situation on a daily basis and has put measures in place to ensure the health and safety of all our team members and the community. Our initial communication to our employee group focused on general awareness and safety precaution measures, as outlined in this excerpt from our internal newsletter, Universal & You.

For our employee group at all offices we have implemented a comprehensive work-from-home program. Where a physical employee presence is required, we are strictly adhering to all safety, hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

02  Will shipments be delayed during the COVID-19 outbreak due to operational disruptions at Universal Logistics?

Universal's services have been deemed an essential service by the Ontario, Quebec, New York and Ohio Governments (where our own offices reside), and we fully expect to continue providing the critical logistics services our clients require during this difficult time. We have a comprehensive work-from-home program currently in effect. Where a physical employee presence is required, a skeleton staff is on site. At our offices and warehouses we are following all safety, hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

However, the situation is very fluid and continues to change on a daily basis. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential disruptions caused by government policies and other circumstances beyond our control. We will continue to communicate and update our clients with Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alerts via email and through the COVID-19 page on our web site as required.

03  Is the US-Canada border open for the clearance of commercial goods?

At this time, there is no impact on commercial cargo. All trade activity will continue across the US-Canada border.

04  What is the current status of commercial trade across the US-Canada border – are there any delays?

Currently, the clearance of commercial goods at the border has not been affected. We will continue to communicate and update our clients with Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alerts via email and through the COVID-19 page on our web site regarding any disruptions or border closures that may ensue. For real time status of border wait times visit the following customs agency websites:


05  Can I travel across the US-Canada border for business?

Both countries have restricted any non-essential travel across the border. We encourage you to contact consular officials or visit the web site of your destination country to determine whether or not the nature of your travel is classified as "essential".

06  Will CBSA allow importers to delay their payment of duty and GST during the COVID-19 crisis?

As of March 26, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) expect all importers and brokers to submit their payments for duty and GST Statements of Account on the scheduled monthly due date.

The Canadian government is currently revisiting their policy on this issue and may allow payment deferrals of duty and GST. We will continue to monitor this situation and will update our clients with Coronavirus (COVID-19) Alerts via email and through the COVID-19 page on our web site.

Updated: On Friday March 27, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the extension of timeframes for the payment of customs duties and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) until June 30, 2020. This includes importers' March Statements of Account (SOA), which are otherwise payable April 1. Extension timeframes and the Prime Minister's announcement are outlined in Customs Notice 20-11. We announced an update on duty and GST deferral options to clients on March 31, 2020.

07  Will U.S. CBP allow importers to delay their payment of duty, taxes and fees during the COVID-19 crisis?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have advised trade users (i.e. importers/brokers) that ACH debit and ACH credit payments to CBP are to be processed when due to avoid liquidated damages and penalties. On March 20, 2020, CBP announced it would approve, on a case by case basis, additional days for payment of estimated duties, taxes and fees due to this emergency. As of March 26, the CBP is no longer accepting requests for additional days for payment.

08  Will there be relief from making payments during the COVID-19 lockdown?

There are many associated freight costs within the logistics supply chain and, with few exceptions, all payments must be made in accordance with the terms of contract. Some airlines have granted an extension in free time (Air Canada is extending its free storage period for general cargo import shipments from 2 to 10 days at all Canadian stations). Steamship Lines and Canadian rail operators (CN & CP) have not made any changes to their storage, demurrage or detention rules.

Although your offices may be closed during this period, payment on your freight is still required in order to ensure movement. Ancillary charges such as storage and demurrage may also be incurred and payable prior to release.

09  What should I do if I cannot deliver a shipment to a facility due to unexpected warehouse or business closures?

Depending on the nature of the cargo, Universal Logistics' warehouse facility in Toronto is available as a short-term storage option until your shipment can be accepted. Please contact our Distribution Services Team for more information.

10  If I keep my warehouse open to receive and offload shipments, would I be subject to fines and penalties?

The determination of "essential" versus "non-essential" businesses is dictated by Federal, Provincial/State and Municipal authorities. Check with the appropriate government authorities to verify whether your warehouse is deemed "essential". If your warehouse is essential and remains open, we will be able to deliver your shipments.

11  Am I still able to transport cargo by airfreight to and from Canada and the U.S.?

Yes. However, the recent reduction in commercial aircraft flights has resulted in limitations in air cargo capacity, and increased service costs. Additionally, airlines have generally limited their service to main hubs. Air Canada, for example, has set up a link for route updates including route suspensions due to COVID-19.

We encourage you to contact our Freight Solutions Team to learn more about your options.

12  Am I still able to transport cargo by ocean to and from Canada and the U.S.?

Yes. Ocean carriers are continuing services during this time, although there are expected bottlenecks at various ports due to labour shortages, blank sailings, container rollovers and government restrictions. Furthermore, there is a severe imbalance of equipment across the globe, so although securing space on the vessel is not typically a problem, securing equipment (i.e. 20', 40' and any specialty containers, in particular refrigerated containers) is a challenge. Price fluctuations are very common and will be confirmed prior to coordinating any request.

We encourage you to contact our Freight Solutions Team to learn more about your options.

13  Am I still able to transport cargo by truck to and from Canada and the U.S.?

Yes. The current situation has not yet affected our efforts to secure equipment, however we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. Any change in pricing will be communicated prior to coordinating any request.

We encourage you to contact our Truck Services Team to learn more about your options.

14  How can I manage reduced airfreight capacity and soaring air rates on my freight from Asia, the UK and Europe to North America?

Switch to an LCL ocean freight solution by shipping your freight in our Toronto/NYC ocean consolidations as a viable, cost-effective option. We encourage you to contact our Freight Solutions Team to learn more about your options.

15  What can I do about the limited availability of FCL containers on the Hong Kong/China to Canada trade lane?

Increase your LCL shipping and consider moving your freight in our weekly Toronto ocean consolidation service. We encourage you to contact our Freight Solutions Team to learn more about your options.

16  Can I import into Canada emergency PPE for distribution to hospitals, first responders, and/or government agencies?

Yes. You may import PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) into Canada. The most common PPEs are face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators, and shoe covers. Certain products (e.g. masks and respirators) must meet Health Canada requirements.

17  Are there any product approval requirements to import N95 Respirator Masks into Canada?

Yes. N95 Respirator Masks are considered Medical Devices and must be pre-approved by Health Canada prior to import. Please refer to Health Canada's Optimizing the use of masks and respirators during the COVID-19 outbreak.

18  Are there any Health Canada license or registration requirements to import N95 Respirator Masks into Canada?

Yes. N95 Respirator Masks are considered Medical Devices and have specific license and registration requirements for importation. Refer to Health Canada for more information.

19  Are CBSA providing any duty/tax relief to imports of emergency use goods?

Yes, under specific conditions. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have issued Customs Notice 20-08 "Imported Goods for Emergency Use in Response to COVID-19".

This Order allows for the relief of duty and tax for goods required for an emergency and are imported by or on behalf of federal, provincial or municipal entities involved, such as centres for health care as well as by or on behalf of members of first response organizations such as police, fire and local civil defence groups, including medical response teams. Other persons, than those listed, are not eligible for this relief.

20  How is the import value of donated medical supplies assessed?

The value for duty of medical supplies should be based on the price paid by the importer or, if not available, such as a donation, a value that can be attributed based on the best available information in Canada (e.g. based on web-based pricing that a Canadian importer would pay for these goods).

21  Is there a list of HS tariff classifications for COVID-19 medical supplies?

A list of medical supplies for COVID-19 based on HS codes provided by the World Customs Organization has been identified by tariff classification (see list). For complete duty rates visit the Canadian Customs Tariff.

22  Do import release requests for COVID-19 medical supplies need to be worded differently?

At this time, the CBSA requests that importers add the term 'URGENT – COVID-19' to the description of goods in release submissions for all medical devices being imported to Canada for this purpose.

Quick Tips

Tip #52 – Ensure your shipping/receiving warehouse staff is available to receive delivery of your shipments quickly

Once advised your shipment is available for local delivery, take delivery at the earliest opportunity.

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