How ‘Chaos’ In The Shipping Industry Is Choking The Economy

Whidbey Island is a lovely place about 30 miles north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. Most days the tranquil sounds of rolling waves and chirping birds provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. But these days, all is not so serene. Residents are complaining about the ruckus created by humongous container ships anchored off their shore.

“We’ve never seen them this close before,” a Whidbey Islander told a local news station. “We’re hearing the throbbing noise at night. … It’s a nuisance.” The noise has been so loud that residents have been complaining to the county sheriff’s office about it.

Whidbey Islanders are getting a front row seat to the growing U.S. trade deficit, which is hitting record highs. It’s fueled by a surge in demand for imports, mostly from East Asia. There’s so much cargo being shipped to the U.S. from Asia right now that the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are chock-full of container ships.

“We are seeing a historic surge of cargo volume coming into our ports,” says Tom Bellerud, the chief operations officer of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages all cargo processing at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. “The terminals are having a difficult time keeping up with processing all the cargo off these vessels fast enough.”

On both land and at sea, the entire supply chain is struggling to keep up. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s become such a clusterfest that the U.S. Coast Guard has been redirecting boats to anchor off the coast of Whidbey Island and other places they typically don’t park. Ship crews are having to wait days, even weeks, for the chance to dock at the ports and offload their precious goods.

It’s the same story up and down the West Coast. In San Francisco Bay, the traffic jam of container ships has gotten so bad that the U.S. Coast Guard has been asking ships not to enter the bay at all. Robert Blomerth, director of the USCG’s San Francisco Vessel Traffic Service, said last week that there were 16 container ships waiting in the open ocean outside the Golden Gate to get in and unload their cargo. He says it’s “completely abnormal.”

When we spoke to Gene Seroka, the head of the Port of Los Angeles, he said his port had 19 ships waiting to dock and they’re now waiting, on average, about five days to get in. In normal times, they don’t have to wait at all.

Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, has spent 20 years studying the industry and he says what’s going on is unprecedented. “The container shipping industry is in a state of chaos that I don’t think it has ever been since it was invented,” he says.

The maiden voyage of the first container ship set sail from Newark, N.J., back in 1956. It may be hard to fathom just how big a deal this innovation was. It was just a big ship that carried containers, literally metal boxes. But these metal boxes enabled ships to carry dramatically more cargo, and, by standardizing shipping practices and using new machines to handle the boxes, shippers were able to slash costs and the time it takes to load, unload and transport that cargo.

Economists credit these metal boxes with increasing the efficiency of shipping so much that it stitched the modern global economy together more than anything else — more than all free-trade agreements put together.

Now economists are concerned that the plumbing provided by these miracle boxes and the vessels that transport them is clogged. It’s making it more difficult for stores to restock their shelves, manufacturers, carmakers and builders to get the parts they need, and farmers to export their products. It’s an important reason, analysts say, that we’re seeing consumer prices surge.

How did shipping get topsy-turvy?

In the early days of the pandemic, global trade hit an iceberg and sank into the abyss. The decline of maritime shipping was so dramatic that American scientists saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study what happened to whales in the absence of a constant deluge of vessels. The noise from the ships apparently stresses them out — kind of like they’re currently stressing out the residents of Whidbey Island.

Greater tranquility for whales in the first half of 2020 was the result of shipping companies canceling their trips and docking their ships. Then the economy rebounded, and American consumers unleashed a tidal wave of demand that swept through the shipping industry when they started shifting their spending patterns. Unable to spend money on going out, many started spending their money (and their stimulus checks) on manufactured goods — stuff that largely comes from China on container ships.

At first, it wasn’t the ships that were the problem; it was the containers. When the buying spree began, Chinese exporters struggled to get their hands on enough empty boxes, many of which were still stranded in the U.S. because of all the canceled trips at the beginning of the pandemic. More importantly, processing containers here has been taking longer because of all the disruptions and inefficiencies brought about by the pandemic. Containers have been piling up at dockyards, and trains and trucks have struggled to get them out fast enough.

“The pandemic has exacerbated longstanding problems with the nation’s supply chain, not just at the ports but in the warehouses, distribution centers, railroads, and other places that need to run smoothly in order for Longshore workers to move cargo off of the ships,” says Cameron Williams.

He’s an official at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers, primarily on the West Coast. Dock workers have been working through the pandemic to handle the increased cargo volume, he says, and at least 17 ILWU workers lost their lives to COVID-19. “We continue to work hard and break records month after month to clear the cargo as quickly as the supply chain allows,” Williams says.

It’s been all hands on deck to supply ravenous consumers and businesses with the stuff they want. The resulting traffic jams at West Coast ports means it takes longer to unload stuff, which then extends the time it takes for ships to get back across the Pacific to reload.

That congestion was already creating massive delays on both ends of the shipping supply chain, tying up large numbers of containers and ships and leading to growing backlogs and shortages. Then, in March 2021, the Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world, got stuck in the Suez Canal in Egypt. While the blockage didn’t directly affect the Asia-West Coast shipping corridor, it added to the global shortage of ships and containers by stranding even more of them out at sea.

As if all this weren’t enough, last month there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the Yantian International Container Terminal in China, which is normally one of the busiest ports in the world. The Chinese government implemented stringent measures to control the outbreak, and as a result, more than 40 container ships had to anchor and wait. “In terms of the amount of cargo, what’s going on in South China right now is an even larger disturbance than the Suez canal incident,” Jensen says.

The effects on the American economy

With so much shipping capacity bogged down, importers and exporters have been competing for scarce containers and vessels and bidding up the price of shipping. The cost of shipping a container from China/East Asia to the West Coast has tripled since 2019, according to the Freightos Baltic Index. Many big importers pay for shipping through annual contracts, which means they’ve been somewhat insulated from surging prices, but they are starting to feel the pain as they renegotiate contracts.

Rising shipping costs and delays are starving the economy of the stuff it needs and contributing to shortages and inflation. It’s not just consumers and retailers that are affected: American exporters are complaining that shipping companies are so desperate to get containers back to China quickly that they’re making the return trip across the Pacific without waiting to fill up containers with American-made products. That’s bad news for those exporters — and for America’s ballooning trade deficit.

As for when it’s going to get better, none of the people we spoke to believes it’ll be anytime soon. And it’s not even considered peak season for the shipping industry yet. That typically begins in August, when American stores start building their inventories for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. The residents of Whidbey Island may have to continue dealing with the nuisance of gigantic, noisy ships cluttering up the horizon for the foreseeable future.

By:

Source: How ‘Chaos’ In The Shipping Industry Is Choking The Economy : Planet Money : NPR

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References:

Shipbuilding NewsCruise Ship News, Ports News ,Salvage News ,Training News ,Government News, Environment News,Corporate News, Maritime Executive , Volga Targets Market, Nuclear-Powered Cargo Ship, China’s Exports, American Vulkan’s Service Team, JFE Steel, OMSA, OceanManager Inc.

AstraZeneca Battles Supply Chain Issues, Denies Claims Its Covid-19 Vaccine Is Largely Ineffective In Seniors

Pharma giant AstraZeneca could face strict new export rules from the European Union that could restrict supply of its Covid-19 vaccine outside the bloc, as officials pressure the company to explain production shortfalls, while the company denies claims in German media that its vaccine is mostly ineffective in seniors.

Key Facts

Citing government sources, two German papers reported Monday that the efficacy of the vaccine AstraZeneca developed with the University of Oxford was “less than 10%” and 8% in those over 65.  

AstraZeneca said the claims are “completely incorrect” and go against published data from its clinical trials which showed a significant response in over-65s..

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Oxford University , which developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca, told the Financial Times there is “no basis for the claims of very low efficacy.”

The German health ministry also rejected the reports Tuesday, suggesting that the newspapers had got confused with the statistics. 

The confusion comes as tensions between AstraZeneca and the European Union soar to new levels, with the bloc furious at the company’s apparent inability or refusal to explain why it cannot honor its agreements and threatening to introduce new export rules for vaccines leaving the Union. 

Forbes has contacted  AstraZeneca to find out whether its supply chain issues and export rules could threaten vaccine supply to other parts of the world.

Key Background

On Friday, AstraZeneca informed Brussels that production issues meant it would be unable to honor its contractual commitments to provide doses to the EU. The vaccine is expected to be approved shortly and the delays mark another setback for the bloc’s vaccination efforts, which are already being hampered by a temporary reduction in deliveries from Pfizer while it makes changes to its production site.  

Chief Critic 

The EU stopped short of directly accusing AstraZeneca of reneging on its contracts in order to sell doses elsewhere, but said: “The European Union wants to know exactly which doses have been produced by AstraZeneca and where exactly so far and if or to whom they have been delivered,” Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said in a statement.

Later, Kyriakides tweeted that discussions with the pharma giant “resulted in dissatisfaction” and there was a “lack of clarity and insufficient explanations.

What To Watch For

The EU may follow through on its threat to implement new vaccine export rules. This would require companies to seek permission before exporting internationally.   

Big Number 

31 million. This is how many doses the bloc is now expecting before the end of March, an EU official told Reuters. That amounts to a 60% cut.

Further Reading

Enraged at AstraZeneca over shortfall, EU calls for vaccine export controls (Politico)

AstraZeneca: German reports on low efficacy on over-65s ‘completely incorrect’ (DW)

Full coverage and live updates on the CoronavirusFollow me on Twitter. Send me a secure tip

Robert Hart

Robert Hart

I am a London-based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news. Previously, I have worked as a reporter for a specialist legal publication covering big data and as a freelance journalist and policy analyst covering science, tech and health. I have a master’s degree in Biological Natural Sciences and a master’s degree in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. Follow me on Twitter @theroberthart or email me at rhart@forbes.com

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CNBC Television

AstraZeneca has received more than $1 billion from the U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a coronavirus vaccine from the University of Oxford. Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, joins “Squawk Box” and CNBC’s Meg Tirrell to discuss the company’s efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2JdMwO7​ » Subscribe to CNBC TV: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCtelevision​ » Subscribe to CNBC: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC​ » Subscribe to CNBC Classic: https://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBCclassic​ Turn to CNBC TV for the latest stock market news and analysis. From market futures to live price updates CNBC is the leader in business news worldwide. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/​ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC​ Follow CNBC News on Facebook: https://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC​ Follow CNBC News on Twitter: https://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC​ Follow CNBC News on Instagram: https://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC

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The Unrealized Benefits of Supply Chain Serialization

Through the use of sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, companies can view the aggregate shipping locations of each distributor, wholesaler, and in some cases large resellers. Most of the time, though, the tracking of products ends there.

By serializing products at the primary package, case and pallet levels, companies can capitalize on enormous opportunities to boost supply and demand management, reduce product loss, prevent counterfeiting, and enhance brand protection. 

Enabling the tracking of items down to the unit level, serialization results in simplified returns processing and recall management, more accurate demand management, and the opportunity for more advanced loyalty programs.

Serialization allows each partner in the supply chain to track product at every step, from point of manufacture to the moment it’s in the consumer’s hands. In addition, when the product is returned, the serial number can be used on all shipping documents to provide information on status and the reason for the return. The information can be of great value in determining whether the product has any quality problems.

With certain recalls, such as children’s products and food and beverage items, the consumer is highly motivated to enter specific serialized information on a website about the purchased product.

Imagine the benefits this would have provided during the romaine lettuce recalls that surfaced last year. Consumers could have determined whether the item was at risk simply by entering a serial number into a website. Stores could have understood which products were safe to keep on shelves, and which needed to be pulled. Manufacturers would have better understood where the contaminated products were shipped, and communicated directly with those specific locations.

With serialization, as each product is returned by consumers and members of the supply chain, easily read serial numbers on each level of packaging are communicated to the brand owner as the products are passed back up the supply chain. Today, products that aren’t serialized bog down the return process, lacking proper and timely information for consumers, supply-chain employees and company executives.

Serialization allows demand management to be optimized. As each product is shipped through the supply chain, the brand owner has access to a timely and accurate tracking history. Shortages can be detected, and replacements shipped, more quickly.

Imagine how useful this would be in the retail industry. Using the power of serialization, one can ensure that the right products are being ordered and available for customers, rather than having a moment of bare shelves and lost sales.

Likewise, disappointing sales in wholesale channels and retail outlets can be detected and handled very quickly. This increase in brand owners’ knowledge can provide for much faster availability of key information regarding the performance of products or their retail outlets, and serve as a guide for making distribution decisions much faster and accurately.

From a brand integrity and anti-counterfeiting perspective, by tracking to the unit level, consumers can validate that the product they are purchasing is authentic. This is a major opportunity for the luxury goods industry.

Aside from the clear supply-chain benefits, opportunities for improvements in marketing are enormous. Marketing teams will be better equipped with timely information regarding sales of their products, allowing them to adjust marketing tactics as needed.

If supply of a specific product is high and sales are low, the company can run a special to promote the product. Demand-side information will be obtained faster and more completely than ever before, allowing for subtle changes to the way products are marketed. For example, communications from purchasers can provide invaluable feedback about product characteristics, which can be used in future advertising campaigns. Any changes in product design or advertising can be detected and altered much faster if a serialized track and trace system is implemented.

On the consumer side, entering validation of product purchase on the company’s website provides the opportunity for a targeted loyalty/rewards program that more closely aligns with that consumer’s needs. In the process, the consumer gets more relevant information and rewards, and the company gets the opportunity to create brand loyalty and increase targeted sales opportunities.

Supply chains have become much more efficient, and products are shipped through these channels much faster than before. Yet even with this increased efficiency, there are still many unrealized benefits of serialization in the supply chain. As more advanced labeling and serialization systems become available at lower price points, companies have the opportunity to embrace the next step in supply-chain management to create a game-changing differentiator through serialization.

Steve Wood is president and CEO of Covectra, Inc.

By: Steve Wood, SCB Contributor

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Clarkston Consulting

This short video was created with the intent of explaining serialization to anyone – your coworkers, your boss, your next-door neighbor, your spouse – after watching this video, anyone should have a basic understanding of what serialization is, why it was created, and which challenges it’s intended to solve. For more information, visit Clarkstonconsulting.com/serialization

India’s Largest Private Port Operator Partners With Blockchain Platform TradeLens

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India’s largest port operator APSEZ has partnered with IBM’s TradeLens platform to digitize its supply chain process.

The largest multi-port operator of India, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ), has partnered with the blockchain-based supply chain solution platform TradeLens.

APSEZ plans to integrate TradeLens’s blockchain solutions across 10 of its major courier management facilities across ports in six Indian states — four in Gujarat and one each in Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Chennai, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Digitizing to curb supply chain shortcomings exposed by the pandemic

According to the local business news outlet, Business Line, APSEZ’s move to digitize its supply chains comes as an effort to reduce the impact of vulnerabilities of the traditional current supply chain system. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic exposed the drawbacks of the present supply chain that heavily relies on paperwork and manual processes.

The report quoted an unnamed logistics industry official saying:

“During the pandemic, we realized the price of not digitizing the industry. There will be a mindset change now and more firms will adopt the technology.”

Developed by Maersk and IBM, TradeLens is expected to help APSEZ make information sharing more time and cost-efficient, transparent, and secure.

A study by QBIS Consulting on Total Transport and Logistics Costs (TTLC) estimated that digitizing supply chain workflow can save importers of a single major port up to $220 million annually. Exporters too could save around $40 million each year. The nationwide saving could scale to as much as $860 million.

Digitizing supply chains worldwide

TradeLens has made consistent progress in partnering with major industry players in an effort to digitize their supply chains.

In December 2019, TradeLens announced its partnership with a major Asian shipping terminal Cái Mép International Terminal. The following month, Oman’s largest port, Port of Salalah also partnered with the company to digitize its supply chain. Cointelegraph reported in March that Standard Chartered became the first bank to join the TradeLens platform.

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Every day, around the world, millions of shipping containers in motion. An incredible achievement of logistics, coordination and communication. But legacy data systems and manual document handling cause friction that costs both time and money for businesses and people throughout the supply chain. TradeLens is a digital shipping platform, powered by blockchain, that enables unprecedented transparency, collaboration and efficiency in global supply chains. Learn more about TradeLens: https://www.tradelens.com #TradeLens #Blockchain #Demo
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