The May 2021 Covid-19 outbreak in a major Chinese port is adding to shipping issues but is not the only factor.
The message is straightforward, if your business relies on shipping, contact your freight forwarder as early as possible and work with them. The reasons to do so are more complex and could bring delays throughout 2021.
Planning the future can no longer rely on a just in time strategy, or standard business approaches. Meeting end of year demand needs action far earlier than normal, following 18 months of unprecedented events.
A Perfect Storm
The coronavirus pandemic has a leading role in a chain of circumstance which could not be foreseen. Neither could the variable outcome, with an initial lull in consumer demand followed by the opposite during lockdowns.
Issues such as the current outbreak in Guangdong have occurred elsewhere, including the public health crisis in India. Health systems across the globe have been stretched, illness, or isolation leaving shipping and port personnel in short supply.
The shipping containers we all rely on are also suffering from supply problems. This has not yet been solved by additional planning, or container manufacture and exacerbated by incidents such as the Suez canal blockage.
That one ship could bring to a halt a supply route for over 3 million tonnes of cargo every hour seems incredible but did happen. A human event which added to tensions in the global supply chain.
The authorities in port areas naturally want to give a positive message. Public announcements tend to suggest that the issues in China, Suez and elsewhere are just stop start scenarios, which can instantly be rectified.
In reality, vessels are diverted to other ports, which brings blockages there as well. When surges of delayed arrivals do enter European hubs, fresh congestion occurs, as does the build up of containers.
Just part of the ripple effect which adds strain to an already overloaded system. Even without more unseen events, solving knock on problems within the world of shipping could take many months.
As in other places, we are seeing indirect impacts in the UK, from a shortage of packing materials, to high prices for container space. All at a time when Brexit has not exactly had a neutral effect.
We don’t doubt that agencies in China and other countries will work towards improvement, which is in everyone’s interest but there are no instant solutions. Disruption to shipping will need to be coped with.
If you are looking at Christmas orders, move sooner than you normally would, now is not a bad time. For any other shipments which are time sensitive, or could hold a business up, factor in possible delays.
Of course others may think the same and backlogs be brought forward but with a detailed, professional approach, more accurate scheduling is possible. If we can help, or offer advice on sea freight, by all means get in touch.