Shipment on Hold DHL: The Ultimate Guide

I used to have a seamless shipping experience with DHL until they started having many unexplainable updates such as “shipment on hold”. 

The problem is that DHL simply never cares to state the reason why the shipment has been held, and they leave it to the client assuming that they will stay tight and wait until the final delivery will be done. 

When I first received this update in late 2019, there was no resource to let me know the causes for that status and if there was anything I could do to hasten the process. As time went by, though, I figured it out, and here is an ultimate guide on the same.

What does a DHL shipment on hold update mean?

If the status of your package is that it is on hold, it means that there is a delay that has left the package stagnated. As such, your package will not get to you within the originally specified delivery window. 

8 Reasons why shipment is on hold 

DHL shipment on hold

1. There is a Force Majeure event with weather

Force Majeure in DHL refers to a scenario where DHL is legally protected against unprecedented occurrences that may make them fail to deliver packages within the delivery windows. 

When DHL makes a Force Majeure declaration, it’s a signal to the clients that there are uncontrollable circumstances that disrupt their normal schedule of deliveries. 

When a shipment is on hold due to a Force Majeure event, customers can expand on the “shipment on hold” update and see the reason. 

One of the most common reasons why a shipment can stay on hold is whenever there is a problem with the weather. At such moments, DHL updates the customer under the “on hold message” with the Force Majeure event with the weather. 

At this point, there is no cause for worry as the package will definitely reach you when the weather turns out clear. 

I have only had this reason for delay when I had a package getting shipped from Japan. If you are in the same scenario, you will need to wait for a few days and the package will finally reach you. 

2. The package is undergoing processing

Most of these processing delays happen at the Cincinnati, Ohio Hub. When a package is at the warehouse and DHL figures out that it will take some time for them to do the processing, they sometimes send the “shipment on hold” update. 

The processing can take longer when DHL is understaffed, especially after the Christmas Holidays season. 

At moments like these, it only takes a day or two to have DHL settle the problem. Unlike under a Force Majeure event with weather updates where DHL says “on hold” though, there is no further update provided in case of processing delays. 

3. The package missed the sort cycle

As DHL sorts packages in their warehouses, it happens sometimes that some may pass the sort cycle. 

In such a scenario, the staff sends the “On Hold” update. This update is one of the fastest to be cleared, though, as sorting takes only a couple of minutes. 

4. A piece of shipment is in a different carrier

If your package had many pieces, it’s possible for DHL to fail to keep them tagged along as a whole in the same carrier (plane, ship, or truck) due to sorting issues. 

They may decide to wait for the next piece of the shipment so that they may carry your entire package as you had expected. 

When that happens, DHL has to send the “on hold” update as they wait for the other carrier that hasn’t reached the station just yet. 

NB: While they try their level best to deliver all the client’s pieces of shipment as a single package, it happens sometimes that DHL may deliver some pieces first and bring the remaining ones later. As such, you may receive your package but then also get an “on hold” message due to a remaining part of the shipment.

5. It’s impossible to reach the consignee

If DHL contacts and fails to reach the consignee, they mostly are left with no choice but to hold the shipment and wait for the right time when the consignee can be reached. 

In such a scenario, they will certainly deliver at their earliest convenience when the consignee reaches out to them and provides the needful info to necessitate the shipment’s delivery. 

When it takes longer for the consignee to reach out to DHL, they usually reach out to the consignor and ask for the necessary information that can be used to reach the consignee. 

The status will remain to be “on hold” until DHL has gotten a way to offer the delivery to the right consignee. 

6. Customs process hasn’t been cleared yet

As the customs process goes on, there may be a delay, especially when there are many packages to be processed. When this process takes longer than DHL expects, they may send the “shipment on hold” update to your DHL account. 

The scenario is even worse when there are charges to be paid and the clearance will take longer to go through. As a rule of thumb, your shipment won’t move from the customs office until any customs charges have been paid. 

Again, when there is wrong information about the shipment’s invoice, the customs office can actually send the package back to the consignor for proper information. The “on hold” status update will stay longer at that point. 

7. The package is awaiting a flight

If your package isn’t coming with a direct international flight, DHL can keep it in one of their hubs as they wait for the next flight coming into your country. 

Let’s take an example where you have a package from China to Australia. If a DHL flight passes via Singapore, then the flight can drop the package at the Singapore hub as they wait for the other flight going to Australia. 

At that time, DHL updates the customer that the shipment is on hold until they load it to the flight going to Australia. 

8. DHL is waiting for a driver at the local DHL depot

This mostly happens when a package arrives late at the local DHL depot and there is no driver to do the deliveries as of that day. 

DHL sends an update that the shipment is on hold and this update stays as is until the next business day when a driver picks it for delivery. 

I have noticed this happening during weekends and when there are public holidays. 

What can I do in case of a DHL Shipment on Hold?

You will undoubtedly have logged in to your DHL account for you to see the “on hold” message. Follow these steps:

1. See if the update is expandable

If you receive the “shipment on hold” update on the DHL tracking page, begin by checking if clicking that update is expandable. 

In some scenarios like where there are adverse weather conditions, DHL shows that “there is a force majeure event with weather”. Since DHL has no control over the weather, you can rest assured that you will receive your package when it’s clear enough. 

2. Contact the DHL customer service team

This is well-applicable in an event where the “on hold” update isn’t expandable to show the reason why the package doesn’t move. 

Contacting the DHL customer service team, especially on the Live Chat prompt is a wise idea as they will be in a better position to let you know why your package isn’t moving. 

This is especially helpful in an event where the customer care team wishes to receive information from the consignee as you will provide them with the info they need to get your shipment going.  

If there were any custom charges to be settled, you will know early and do what is needed to be done to have your package. This is the reason why contacting the DHL team in the quest to know what really the problem is, works perfectly. 

FAQs about shipment on hold DHL

How long will my shipment be on hold DHL?

DHL agrees that a package can be held for up to 10 days due to unprecedented factors such as operational backlogs, customs delays, and adverse weather conditions. 

While most “on hold” updates get solved in a maximum of 7 days, know that it won’t be unusual for the hold to go up to the 10 days stated by DHL. 

Why is my shipment on hold DHL Shein?

If you bought clothes from Shein and used DHL as your courier company, then getting the “shipment on hold” update is common. The primary reason that leads to this is when the customs office is backlogged. 

Until the customs process clears for your Shein package, the status for your package will always be “shipment on hold”. 

The clearance process can take a couple of days and as such, be patient. 

Why is a DHL shipment on hold after clearance processing complete?

While a DHL shipment might have undergone clearance processing, the status may still be “shipment on hold” and this could be due to various reasons such as weather delays or there being no driver within the vicinity to make the final delivery. These reasons take only a day or a couple to be sorted out. 

Why is a DHL shipment on hold in another country?

When this message pops up when a package is in another country, it usually means that the shipment is undergoing customs clearance or DHL is waiting for another flight to carry the package to the destination country. At that point, the recipient needs to be patient enough.