Chain Reaction Podcast Retail Logistics Disruptions and Resilience

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Since the pandemic began in 2020 disruption to supply chains has become expected.  Transport is at the centre of getting the right goods to the customer in the right place, at the right time and at the right price. On time and complete delivery was the mission for those delivering supply chain promises. Retail Logistics has been responsible for some great innovations in combining technologies to deliver goods to stores and their customers. It employs people in farms and production centres across the globe. Goods then have to be transported by road, rail and ship to their market destinations, wholesalers, retail customers and consumers. There are many challenges that retail logistics face beyond the normal supply chain issues such as natural disasters, crop failures, wars and government policies to name but a few. Each challenge brings with it a unique situation that retailers have to vercome to keep supply chains moving to deliver on time and complete. Retail supply chains have to be resilient. When the Covid 19 Pandemic emerged in March 2020 no one realised at that point all the challenges that supply chains would face. By April and May it became clear that there were problems getting personal protective equipment (PPE), Medical Supplies including ventilators and medicines. As people became sick with Covid and lockdowns closed production units and retail stores supply chains became stretched and cracks occurred in the system. The UK was continuing with its never ending saga of Brexit and that caused its own problems for retailers, food supply chains, fisheries and many other categories of goods brought into the UK from the EU or exported to it. Shortages began to emerge in supermarkets and customers began to stockpile food and household items at home. It got a lot worse before getting marginally better. However, by Christmas there were hold ups at UK Ports and the beauracracy introduced by all the new regulations and customs requirements added days to deliveries. Many EU  HGV drivers based in the UK retunred home to countries in Europe since they could no longer work in the UK due to the removal of 'freedom of movement'. Today it is estimated that there is a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers and this is and has caused immense disruption to food supplies and other goods. In March 2021 The Ever Given owned by Evergreen ran aground in the Suez Canal and remained stuck in the middle of the canal for more than a week. It caused massive disruption estimated to be in the region of $10 million (US). Even when the ship moved allowing other ships to pass through they were now off schedule and empty contaner boxes had not returned to their next port for loading. This put pressure on container prices pushing them up by 5-600 per cent from just a year ago. Ships were also in short supply to move goods.Disruption to shipping and shipments of goods from China to Europe and the US has caused major delays for customers getting their supplies. Since 70 per cent of all goods are moved by seafreight this is no small problem. The Pandemic closed some major Chinese ports such as Yantian. It was pleasing to see the Ever Globe travel from Ningbo in China to Felixstowe in just 35 days so some sailings are getting back to normal. Looking at shipping more generally most of the world's big container ships are now built in the Far East in China, South Korea and Japan. These modern container ships are huge with the lates additions to the Evergreen fleet able to carry 23,600 TEUs. A much smaller vessel the MOL Comfort had its hull break in half enroute from Shanghai to Jedda some years back when carrying just 4,300 TEUs half of its actual capacity. So these larger vessels are cause for concern. The ships now being built all run on Diesel Oil so it will be interesting to see if the shipping industry is likely to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050.