While England enters the second day of its month-long lockdown, the COVID pandemic continues to impact global supply chains in the most profound ways, diminishing port performance at origin and destination, while slashing air and sea carrier capacity and reliability and driving rates up.

Lockdown

As ‘essential workers’ Norman Global Logistics will continue to operate through the lockdown period, with offices, warehouses and logistics facilities manned and operating in accordance with COVID-safe working practices.

While we are confident that we will maintain Norman Global Logistics’ operational and service levels, it is likely that this lockdown will put further pressure on container ports, airports, inland terminals, hauliers and warehouses.

Felixstowe

The port of Felixstowe is again refusing to accept empty containers, in a continuing effort to clear its congestion backlog.

The ban means further challenges to inland container operations, that are already suffering from severe congestion, leading many port users and hauliers to blame Felixstowe’s decision to furlough large numbers of staff and continuing issues with its vehicle booking system (VBS).

Our ops teams are working tirelessly to keep our customers supply chain operating, without delay or disruption. We start booking deliveries and arranging haulage weeks before vessels arrive, fine-tuning arrangements as the local situation develops.

The post-Pandemic lockdown increase in container volumes that created the congestion that Felixstowe is still struggling with will last at least into December and possibly through into the New Year.

Southampton and London Gateway have also been by the volume spike, with diverted vessels putting their operations under increasing pressure, with yards at capacity, congestion and delays of varying severity.

Global freight

When supply chains reopened after the Coronavirus lockdown, most passenger airlines were grounded, reducing global air cargo capacity by around 30% and the shipping lines had blanked almost half their capacity, with empty containers out of position, all around the world.

“Sea and air freight rates from China have been increasing since May and show no signs of stopping any time soon”

The UK’s cargo airports and container terminals have been struggling to deal with post-lockdown import spikes, which are particularly pronounced on the sea freight side, though air cargo still suffers from intermittent congestion at origin and arrival.

Port and airport operational capability is reduced, because workers are missing (through illness or isolation) and COVID-safe working practices mean that less work can be completed in a working day, restricting the ability of carriers, hauliers and service providers to deliver cargo on time.

The traditional pre-Christmas ‘peak’ season would be over by now, but lockdowns have affected demand patterns, which is extending the ‘peak’ period and means that space on vessels and aircraft out of Asia remains at a premium.

Despite more vessel capacity that 2019, rates from China to North Europe reached their highest level of the year, at the end of October on this strong and sustained demand. 

Rates have been rising since May, during the initial Europe-wide lockdown, increasing by more than100% on some routes over the past six months.

There has been no slowdown in demand since the rush to ship before Golden Week in early October, which is the traditional end of peak season.

The earlier lockdowns triggered huge demand for consumer goods, with people spending on household goods, furniture, and electronics instead of on holidays and cars, or shopping on the high street.

We are now in a second national lockdown for at least a month and this will undoubtedly have further impact on global and domestic freight operations into 2021.