Chain Reaction Podcast 2021 A Supply Chain Year In Review – The Ghost of Christmas Present

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Listen to the episode to find out more about all the major events that shaped supply chains in 2021. You might also want to review some previous episodes that deal in detail with some of the topics discussed. You can also read articles by Tony Hines here.

To say 2021 was a difficult year for supply chains and everyone working in them would be an understatement. Keeping goods moving around the world has been an immense challenge fro everyone with  Covid 19 intervening haphazardly to disrupt those flows. Fortunately, scientists and the medical profession have worked at double quick speed to mitigate the deadliest impact of the virus.  In this episode Tony Hines takes a retrospective view of  the biggest events disrupting supply chains and what governments and businesses have done to mitigate the risks.

At the start of 2021 the UK finally left the EU after five years since the vote to leave. This caused some disruptions and increased the regulatory friction. Albeit some of the worst impacts were delayed as the UK and EU agreed to defer some of the detailed regulations. In the US the Biden administration focused attention on advancing policies to develop resilient supply chains. Supply chains became the central policy platform to strengthen trade and innovation.

 Six days in March saw resilience stretched to the limit. The incident of one of the world’s largest container ships blocking the Suez Canal holding up many other ships and forcing many to take the longer route around Cape Horn to reach European ports. Eventually the ship was freed on 29th March and moved to the Great Lake allowing passage through the narrow straights. At this time about 360 ships were lined up to recommence their journey through the canal. This delay had a knock on effect of disrupting global supply chains for months with boxes in the wrong places and congestion at many ports in the EU, UK and US.

Next was the massive increase in cost of accessing container boxes. Prices increased by 500% on a year earlier. 

There was more disruption to food supplies caused by labour shortages in production and distribution. Agricultural crops were left rotting in the fields in some cases. Many industries were suffering shortages due to Covid 19 and in the UK there was the added impact from Brexit. In August there were a growing number of ships waiting to be unloaded at ports on the West Coast of the US. Los Angeles and Long Beach had more than 76 ships waiting by September queuing to enter the ports. 

More extreme temperatures caused fires in Australia, California, Turkey and floods in Italy and Germany. Further supply chain disruption as a consequence and many people killed or losing all their possessions. 

As we approach the year end Gas wholesale prices have increased by more than 250%. Energy costs for industry and consumers will be much higher in 2022 as a result. Fuel prices for transport had also increased by 33% since January 2021. UK inflation in December was at 5.2% (CPI) and about 7 % (CPI) in the US. 

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