While our attention at home is focused on the effects a highly contagious COVID-19 variant is having on every type of work force, including manufacturing and logistics, it is important to continue to look outward and elsewhere for major events impacting key countries and trade lanes.
The following market advisory takes a look around the globe at the events and activities happening now that will be impactful in both the short and medium term.
China: Ningbo COVID restrictions, the Olympics and Lunar New Year
In Ningbo, the world’s largest port, things aren’t much better with a lockdown shutting down the city left and right. China claims the port’s productivity has not slowed down despite the overall increase of security measures put in place for the new variant. With the new case count having risen from 1 to 23, the heightened restrictions could cause a result in product disruptions including short-term delivery and order fulfillment delays.
The ability to get into and out of Ningbo from other provinces is also being hampered by China’s “zero-COVID” lockdown policy. Movement of containers from Ningbo to nearby cities has been reduced to near zero, while drivers coming to Ningbo with containers are being subject to a fourteen day quarantine before being allowed to leave.
Beginning in early February, the Winter Olympics in Beijing and the surrounding areas will mean a variety of closures and restrictions at the airport, Customs and moving cargo and trucks in the Beijing area. These prohibitions usually also extend to the movement of hazardous materials and chemicals. While TOC customers may not be purchasing those items directly, they could be employed in upstream manufacturing operations for components that have the potential to hamper production and delivery schedules further downline.
Finally, Lunar New Year celebrations in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea in a typical year (if you’re counting, this will be the third atypical Lunar New Year), mean closures of factories and customs offices ranging from a few days to several weeks. During the lead-up to Lunar New Year, there is already an increased demand for equipment and space and carriers blank sailings in the ensuing weeks following the holiday.
There are plenty of analysts and experts who, when asked to find the point at which the supply chain was tipped on its head, point to the prolonged blanked sailings following Lunar New Year and the initial explosion of COVID in early 2020. Today, though, and going into the next 45-60 days, we are focused on maintaining allocations, identifying as early as possible carrier blanked sailings among our contracts and protecting space on the remaining sailings.
Beginning Saturday, January 8th, the government of Hong Kong announced a suspension of passenger flights to and from Hong Kong from the United States and multiple other countries for the next two weeks to prevent the further spread of COVID. It will perpetuate the city’s isolation from other countries, and return to the restrictions that began at the first of the pandemic. With the new omicron variant, Hong Kong is facing another wave of the highly communicable disease.
In the U.S. – it’s winter weather nearly everywhere.
In the U.S. through the Rocky Mountains, there are closures to major travel interstates, affecting the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. The storm, moving through the Eastern United States, has left thousands of people and businesses without power. On the Plains and the Central States, there is heavy snowfall as well as high winds. Starting in the south, there’s anticipation of another storm that will migrate northeast.
Two of our major carrier partners in Europe, CMA and MSC, have posted delays ranging from 10-18 days from scheduled versus actual sailing dates. There are three primary reasons for this: port congestion (everywhere), delays at major EU base ports and delayed returns from westbound voyages to the USEC and the Gulf.
Vessels delayed in arrival with shipments from the United States translates into delayed delivery of European imports, leading to scarcity of equipment to load European exports. Again, from MSC and CMA, we are receiving mixed messages on container availability based on city, port and depot locations.
Fortunately, we are seeing reliable performance from Hapag Lloyd ex-Hamburg, but Bremerhaven remains a bottleneck for equipment.
What This Means
We have been thanking and continuing to thank our customers, our vendor partners and our employees for their hard work, creativity and focus. We pride ourselves here at TOC on finding and delivering solutions for customers and bringing our size, buying power and relationships to bear. All of those things have been needed—and tested—as we are looking at the first quarter of 2022.
Thankfully, we have identified opportunities for success and formulae that have worked and served us well—and we will continue to lean into those developed solutions to help our customers maintain continuity in their supply chains.