Seafarers not to be blamed for supply chain congestion

ITF Seafarers’ Section chair and Fair Practices Committee co-chair David Heindel said transport workers should not be blamed for the global supply chain congestion and the skyrocketing cost of moving cargoes.

Instead, a lack of foresight, poor planning and container mismatch fuelled the disruption – with consumers experiencing order delays and shortages at local grocers while having to pay more. Heindel said shipping experts had warned of large-scale supply chain disruption as far back as April 2021; a continued logjam in 2022 should not surprise the industry.

“The big problem we’ve got in shipping right now is that we don’t have the right number of containers in the right places,” said Heindel.

“There are many more containers sitting in consumer country ports and transport depots full of goods than the land transport systems there can process, and too few empty containers back in goods production hubs like China ready for new orders. Unfortunately, this is a dilemma of the charterers and logistics companies’ own making.” he added 

 The industry saw the Omicron variant accelerating demands for online shopping, swelling orders and goods. The trend outstripped the availability of shipping containers and skyrocketed the cost of sending one from China to the US and Europe.

courtesy of Unsplash

The New York Times had reported vessels arriving at once, sometimes waiting in 100-vessel queues off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Offloaded containers also sit idle in ports, unclaimed, due to a shortage of skilled manpower, equipment, and infrastructures to process the influx of cargoes. With transport workers working tirelessly to deliver international orders, the need for a coordinated effort from all stakeholders through the supply chain has never been more urgent.

“The scarcity of containers in China is concerning, especially in combination with the increasing demand for shipping that has resulted in price-gouging and the cost of cargo transport skyrocketing. We need to see those profits used to get the system back on track and return empty containers to the right places, fast,” said Heindel.

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