COVID-19 Update #8

March 17, 2020  |   News

Update; May the 4th be with you 

Key Updates Below:

  • Most importantly – we remain FULLY operational.
  • Air Freight Services Update – More Services Opening Up
  • Zero VAT on PPE equipment
  • Ocean Freight Port Congestion – Potential Financial Liability Issue
  • Int’l Courier Update
  • Ocean freight Update
  • Response to delays making and administering bookings

The World is Still Moving

The Majority of cargo routes remain open, however there are tightening restrictions in some countries where the lockdown process is more restrictive.

  • Airfreight Export

We have extensive networks available to move cargo, however the space availability and restrictions on some items such as hazardous goods are becoming increasingly challenging to route, however we are finding solutions, despite such a dramatic reduction in passenger flights. Rates remain high. Freighter services available to majority of destinations worldwide. Some passenger airlines are operating ‘ghost’ flights (no passengers, cargo only). Many more airlines are reopening up routes, whilst some others reduce. Virgin Atlantic have cut their US flights, but other airlines continue to the USA (United Airlines) and more services available to/from Asia, Australia for example.

**Our air export team are battling with slow responses, last minute flight changes/cancellations, poor customer service in some areas or having to deal with some airlines that, dare we say, under ‘normal’ circumstances, we may choose not to! But beggars cannot be choosers, as the saying goes. A normal air quote or booking would usually take 5-10 minutes – but they are now taking an hour or so. Please bear with our fantastic team as they battle through this crisis!


We have been advised the the import of vital PPE equipment is now VAT free (on import) and should also be VAT free on UK domestic sales – please speak to

  • International /UK Courier

ALL services remain in operation, but rather sadly we are now facing the implementation of an Emergency Situation Surcharge (ESS) as of 1st April. This is not an SFS surcharge. Both DHL and FedEx are charging now, and we are seeing it elsewhere. Many tariffs are temporarily suspended, so therefore we must begin to quote on a per shipment basis to be sure of the correct charge at time of shipment. Our online tariff is offline for the time being as we encourage your teams to email or call us on 02380 860999 (please remember we have limited staff in the building, so we encourage email communication)
You can also login using our New Online Platform where you can book your shipments and also track your courier shipments using the SFS awb number.

  • Import Air

Rates ex China are rising due to shortage of space and some import handling agents in London are adding COVID-19 surcharges on import arrivals. Pleased to note that we do NOT have any surcharge on air services routed into our Southampton ETSF facility. Please ask for routings into Southampton on our SOU service (for example Virgin Atlantic are still offering daily JFK flights and therefore we can route known cargo from the USA into our SOU facility, space permitting) and many Chinese services are open again.

  • Ocean Freight  

Lack of space on quayside is creating a serious congestion issue for many shipping lines and port authorities, as many containers cannot be claimed/delivered due to lockdowns across the world. Whilst the issue is likely to create further equipment shortages across the world, there is also a large liability issue looming; It is the shipper’s ultimate responsibility to cover rent and demurrage fees on CPT Terms. We would highly recommend ensuring your client is able to receive the container at destination to avoid potential financial pitfalls.

These capacity issues are affecting availability of special equipment (such as reefer containers) on some routes, but we can make bookings for containers daily. More blank sailings have further reduced capacity so some bookings may take several weeks before sailing.  We encourage you to discuss with our ocean export team by calling 02380 860999 or emailing to discuss your requirements

  • For Urgent European shipments we have an extensive network of dedicated vehicles that can deliver into Europe next day (or perhaps two days depending on the distance). Please let us know ANY requirements you have, large or small. 
  • Some continuing delays on standard European road deliveries and POD’s may not have a signature due to reduced personal contact at delivery points. This is an ongoing and developing situation. 
  • Warehousing space is available for large, small, racked, out of gauge, bonded, non-bonded, hazardous cargo, pick and pack etc. If your warehouse is closed/closing but you still want to ship orders, please discuss options for us to hold your stock and despatch against your orders. Contact
  • UK Border Force and partner agencies have identified emerging trends involving criminal groups exploiting the current situation to ship illicit goods, including counterfeit medicines and PPE. Legitimate shipments are also targeted to hide illicit importations of drugs and excise goods.

Our own drivers/warehouse staff;

After placing SFS Facility in ‘lock down’ on the 16th March, we continue to operate as normal, albeit with a mix of remote and physical working.

We kindly remind everyone that ALL drivers and visitors are guided to report to Warehouse G doors where there is a door bell for access, and the front doors have a sign with our telephone number in order to contact the main office. Please ask you drivers to respect our rule for personal contact and understand they are not allowed into the warehouse, or to use our facilities. These are difficult times, but we must all play our part to help restrict the spread of this virus.

Our drivers (and all members of staff) are equipped with hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes and tissues. Drivers also have surgical gloves to minimise contact. We have instructed our drivers to restrict, where possible, personal contact when collecting or delivering your cargo. We would ask your assistance in this regard, in order to protect everyone, and they may now call your office to announce their arrival, instead of walking into the premises.

NOTE: We have instructed our warehouse staff not to handle or sign any tablets or screens at this time, or make personal contact with clipboards etc. They will provide the delivery driver with their name. We also will request our own drivers are not asked to handle any tablets or screens when collecting or delivering at your premises.


Further to our update on 20th April, our split working arrangements continue to improve in fluency, however we would ask everyone to understand that we are essentially on the frontline, and each shipment or quotation is taking considerably longer to produce, thanks to the hugely complex nature of this current situation.

Our teams are split 50/50 working – one week on – one week off, to reduce cross contamination. We have restructured our working environment to ensure minimum distance is observed, and split use of toilets and kitchen facilities, whilst also ensuring we further protect our warehouse team and our drivers.

We have implemented new technology for warehouse/office/transport communication also, to help facilitate efficient communication and functionality between teams, but with reduced physical contact.

We are fighting as a team to continue operating under these exceptional circumstances. Whilst the incredible emergency services of this country keep working in the background to protect us, we’re also providing an emergency service to keep the world moving. Talk to us about your requirements.

We will continue to update you when more information is available. In this deeply worrying period for the world, we want to express our hope that you, your colleagues, families, friends and businesses are safe from harm. We are here to support you in any way we can and thank you for your support, as always.

Ross, Chris and the entire SFS Family

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