Top Tips to Protect your Christmas Cargo

Most importers will be well aware the Christmas rush is almost upon us. Each year it seems the festive season, (and the increase in consumer purchasing that comes with it) starts sooner. And with that, so does the Christmas shipping rush and subsequent clearance delays. So what does this mean for your business?

The pre-Christmas period is a minefield for importers. Smart importers realise the need to plan for extra shipping time and clearance delays due to the sheer volume of goods moving around the world, along with the increased likelihood of strike action by stevedores (deliberately timed to create the most disruption) resulting in further delays.

Not to mention the added hold up that public holidays can cause. At this time of year, it’s imperative that importers plan for setbacks and allow for any additional costs incurred due to delays.

Peter McRae of Platinum® Freight Management shares his top tips for navigating the Christmas shipping period:

1. Duty: Make sure that if your goods are eligible for any  Free Trade Agreements – that your supplier obtains the correct certificates.

2. Strike action: at either of these places – the dock –  at Customs  or at Quarantine – can mean your stock reaches shelves or consumers too late. Ensure your Christmas shipping deadlines allow for these potential delays.

3. Wharf storage costs: strike action resulting in stock left on the wharf can result in higher wharf storage costs for the importer. Ensure there is a buffer in your Christmas budget to allow for this

4. Container rental fees: strikes can mean your stock is left in a container for longer than planned (if it hasn’t even reached the wharf when the strike occurs), resulting in higher container rental fees for every day a container remains un-emptied.

5. Book shipping early: and negotiate shipping times with suppliers. To allow for delays, you should be aiming to have goods in transit to the warehouse by the first week of December. According to Peter, strike action generally occurs in mid-December.

6. Allow for holidays: if you’re shipping goods that are replenished during Christmas trade, shipping timelines need to allow for public holiday dock and Customs closures. This also means budgeting for additional holding fees for stock remaining in containers or on wharves for longer than normal. With that in mind, you should plan to land goods prior to public holidays (see tip 5).

7. Pre-clear goods: one way to save time is to pre-clear goods before they reach Australia, protecting your goods from Customs delays upon arrival and allowing you to plan efficient transport from the dock to the warehouse. This is where an experienced Customs Broker is essential.

8. First time importers: will be subject to additional shipment checks by Customs. If you’re a first time importer, your timeline should allow three to five business days for clearance delays. These checks are unavoidable, so don’t think you can get around them.

9. Plan: if your timeline doesn’t include time and budget contingencies for any or all of the above, you’re at risk of becoming a victim to Christmas delays and your goods will be stuck at the dock or in-store after Christmas. This can have a significant impact on your bottom line, or spell disaster for some businesses.


It’s an unfortunate fact that it’s the importers who are penalised for Christmas delays, no matter their cause. The best way you can protect your business, your goods, and yourself from the predictable bottleneck that Christmas presents is to plan and anticipate the issues that may occur.

Peter says: “Christmas shipping and Customs delays are predictable, so as long as your timelines and budget allow for this, you and your business will successfully overcome any hurdles, ensuring your goods are on shelves or in the hands of your customers in time.”