Coronavirus: how to handle shipments to and from Italy

International goods shipments are increasingly affected, and current developments raise many questions. We have collected the most important information for you.

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28.02.2020

The coronavirus has reached Europe. Italy, in particular, is experiencing an increase of infections with SARS-CoV-2 /COVID19. You can find out what shipping agents, freight forwarders and hauliers need to pay attention to when carrying out transport orders into and out of the affected regions and how best to act if you are in need of clarification here*.

If you are in the process of executing or planning transports into or out of these regions, we recommend that you contact your transport customer in a timely manner in order to avoid issues and misunderstandings at a later date.
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Update 03/09/2020: According to the latest communication from the Italian Ministry of Transport, there are no closures or restrictions on the transit of goods and the entire production chain to and from the areas in northern Italy. The restrictions introduced do not prohibit travel for proven business reasons. The goods can be imported and exported to the areas concerned. [Source: http://www.mit.gov.it/comunicazione/news]. Update 10.03.2020: The Italian government has extended the measures to the whole country.
If you are not sure what the status on site is (at your loading point or destination), we recommend you keep informed about the current travel restrictions imposed by Italian authorities and then contact your transport customer to clarify the situation.
The situation and the safety recommendations may change very quickly.
You can find more information here: www.protezionecivile.gov.it/home 

What is the legal situation if the transport has not yet begun?
In the event that the transport has not yet started, and in the case of a permanent quarantine, there may be what is known as an objective impossibility. Contracts regarding transports that cannot be fulfilled regardless of the person carrying them out are generally considered void. Therefore, any such contract would not give rise to any obligation. The truck does not have to be provided by the freight forwarder or haulier, and the service provider does not receive any compensation for the fact that the transport cannot go ahead.
If, before loading the goods, it is clear that the transport customer or recipient are not working due to caution regarding the coronavirus, then the cancellation would be the responsibility of the transport customer, provided they cannot prove that there is a ban on work or operations passed down by the authorities.
In any case, we recommend you speak to your transport customer in advance.

What is the legal situation for transports in process?
If you, as a freight forwarder or haulier, have accepted a transport order via the Smart Logistics System, then in principle the legally binding contract you have signed with your transport customer is in effect.
If the transport into or out of a region affected by the coronavirus has already begun, which is usually considered to be the case once the goods are loaded, you may be confronted with measures taken by authorities such as blockades at access roads or quarantine for entire towns that you had intended to drive through to deliver the goods. In this case, you are facing what is known as circumstances preventing delivery. Therefore, Article 14 et seq. of the CMR applies, i.e. you are subject to the relevant regulations as set out in national transport law. Any changes that must be made to the transport order require instruction from the transport customer, for example changes to the destination for the transport order to a place not affected by the blockades.
In this case, the haulier generally has a right to payment for additional costs, such as additional route costs caused by having to take the goods further.
The haulier cannot end the transport until the transport customer has, upon request, refused to provide alternative instructions, or in the event that said instructions are unreasonable. Warning! In this case, the haulier is responsible for adequate storage of the goods. In some cases, such as when the goods are perishable, the haulier may consider an emergency sale.
The same is true, for example, if the sender or recipient of the goods has had their business shut down or placed under quarantine and loading or unloading the goods is not possible. In case of doubt, the haulier must provide proof that the business was under quarantine or closed.
If you are in need of short-term storage space, you can find appropriate offers in our warehouse smart app

If you are in the process of executing or planning transports into or out of these regions, we recommend that you contact your transport customer in a timely manner in order to avoid issues and misunderstandings at a later date.
You can find more information regarding current road closures for trucks at www.truckban.info.

*The information provided here is not intended to be legal advice. If you have a concrete case requiring clarification, please speak with your lawyer in order to ensure that any particularities of the case, as well as rights and laws specific to the country in question, are taken into account.

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