Coronavirus Logistics Update 3 (COVID-19)

The Coronavirus is continuing to cause issues to global supply chains with many of the large manufactures around the world issuing warnings of potential hit to full year profits.  This has highlighted how important China is in supply chains across the planet today. Many companies have urgently started to try and move manufacturing to other countries including  Vietnam and India. Few of these countries have the capacity to available to meet the sudden demand, and even ones which can it is going to be many weeks before these products are able to get the end consumer.

In the UK one online furniture supplier warns that while they have sufficient stock due to the delays in factories restarting up they are facing the a break in their supply chain. They rely on a constant supply of containers from China manufacturers. They have additionally stock to cover the Chinese new year shutdown, however they expect to run out of the most popular items within the next few weeks. If they have to stop selling certain items not only does it mean a loss of sales, but also a drop off in Amazon, Ebay and Google rankings. As a result once the supply chain out of China is reestablished, it will take time to get sales back to previous levels. The owner does not expect to have to lay off any staff at the moment this may become required if the crisis continues.

Transport operators are not fairing much better. Both shipping lines and airlines (cargo and passenger) have lost large amounts of money over the past few weeks. Many shipping lines have added blank sailings into their schedules to prevent their vessels getting delay at Chinese ports. Airlines have cancelled virtually all services and are not accepting bookings till the end of March for many Chinese destinations. Additionally with the virus spreading to other countries many Airlines are reducing their services to these areas. Easyjet which is low cost operator in the UK, is taking drastic action to reduce it costs in the face of falling passenger numbers, these include pay freezes, reduction of administration costs and offering staff unpaid leave.

Despite all the bad news, for China the official line is amount of new cases being reported is dropping and if news reports are accurate then virus now seems to be effecting more people outside of China. This is reflected in the current port operations in the Port of Ningbo, China. This port has over 24000 registered truck drivers, at the height of the crisis it had less than a thousand actually working. This figure has now reason to over 7000 by the end of last weekend. This means container through put has gone from virtually nothing to 13000 twenty foot equivalent (TEU) units being moved per day at the start of the week. Other Chinese ports are beginning to clear through their container backlogs.

Shippers need to be aware that as factories begin to return to full operation and there is a rush to get goods to the ports, space will become a premium on the vessels and as result rates will be expected to rise and containers will sit on the quay longer than normal while awaiting a vessel with space. Price issues and space availability is effecting airfreight imports and exports as there is considerable reduction on available flights currently. Booking space as early as possible is currently the best recommend action for shippers.