2023 Logistics In Review

Dec 28, 2023Industry News, International Logistics, News, Supply Chain Management

We are on the heels of another new year. However, before we close the book on 2023, it’s time to take a look back at some of the most influential events that happened over the last calendar year. If you ask us, it’s hard to believe some of these were only a few months ago! Keep reading for our top 2023 supply chain headlines.

Strikes and Negotiations

The last few years have seen their fair share of negotiations, strikes, and walkouts as workers across the globe asked for higher pay, additional benefits, and changes to working conditions. 

This spring, German unions Ver.di and EVG announced a transport strike that severely impacted air and ocean cargo. Although it only lasted 24 hours, it caused significant disruptions in both commercial and public transportation. 

Shortly after, we saw the shutdown over Easter weekend during labor disputes between The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association. The negotiations between the two organizations continued throughout the year and only reached a conclusion in September when a new contract was finally signed.

Of course, we couldn’t talk about labor disputes in 2023 without mentioning the United Auto Workers. The six-week strike was resolved in late November when the UAW ratified a new contract with the Detroit Three automakers.

All of this comes directly after President Joe Biden signed legislation in December of 2022 to prevent a strike by railroad workers in the U.S., which the administration claimed could have affected up to 115,000 workers and stopped 30% of cargo being shipped around the country. It’s clear from this and the following labor disputes that similar negotiations and actions are likely to pop up throughout 2024.

Artificial Intelligence

Although artificial intelligence has debatedly been around for over 50 years, its popularity blossomed throughout 2023. Over a few months, what was once seen as a novelty took hold in many industries and logistics was no exception. Since then, AI has helped to revolutionize operations, improve efficiency, and accurately forecast demand. While machine learning tools were able to identify data trends, generative AI can build upon that base and expand its scope to far greater levels.

These tools, however, are only as effective as those using them, which means organizations have spent 2023 scrambling to properly train their teams. While the learning curve may be steep, AI isn’t going away any time soon. That means there’s no better time to learn how to unlock the potential of predictive analytics.

Panama Canal Drought

Panama is no stranger to drought, even during its rainy season. However, this October saw a dramatic lack of rain. In fact, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) called it, “the driest since the earliest registers, 73 years ago.” With 41% less rain than usual, it’s no wonder why the Panama Canal soon felt the impact of the drought.

Vessel restrictions rolled out in November to cut back on the number of ships that could pass through the seven-inch-short waters of the Panama Canal. While a necessary step, this decision caused significant delays for shipping routes that typically passed through the canal. Many carriers chose to completely reroute their vessels through the Suez Canal in an effort to avoid Panama entirely. However, the attacks on the Red Sea (see below) meant those ships had to—once again—find another way to get to their destinations.

As it stands now, the Panama Canal has been slowly increasing shipping slots when possible to help alleviate some of the bottleneck and delays caused by the overlapping conditions. The situation is expected to continue at least until February. Of course, we’ll keep you updated through our Market Advisories with any news.

Attacks on the Red Sea

Ever since humans began sailing, attacks at sea have been part of maritime reality. However, while piracy may still be a concern (despite countless global initiatives to eliminate it), the attacks on vessels in the Red Sea are anything but ordinary. 

A few weeks ago, the Maersk Gibraltar was nearly hit by a missile near the  Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. This, along with the arson of a Hapag-Lloyd vessel, caused both carriers to divert all voyages away from the Red Sea for the safety of their crews. 

The attacks have been attributed to Houthi rebels in the area. In response, the United States announced the formation of a multinational operation designed to “safeguard commerce in the Red Sea.” This task force, which is known as Operation Prosperity Guardian is reported to be a collaboration between the United States, Britain, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain. With less than a week left of 2023, we’ll have to wait to see what the future has in store for these efforts.

Although 2023 has been a turbulent year for the industry, it’s reinforced our dedication to finding new, innovative approaches to the hurdles our customers face every day. Of course, we hope to see the unresolved situations above resolved as soon as possible. Still, in the meantime, we’ll be looking forward to what the new year brings.


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