Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (April 2, 2021)

Q1 2021 is in the books. 

The pandemic is still with us, but we have vaccines and toilet paper, so an improvement from last year.

Onward and upward we go! (Unless you’re a cargo ship, anchored and waiting.)


Ocean Shipping: Congestion and Waiting

The good news: the volume of world merchandise trade is expected to increase by 8.0% in 2021 after having fallen 5.3% in 2020, according to the World Trade Organization.

The bad news: that growth will be met with a lot of congestion, equipment shortages, and waiting.

“Shipowners, exporters and importers are now racing to secure berths and containers at ports, while warning of delays and higher costs for cargoes that are slowly starting to move toward their destinations again [following the backup at the Suez Canal],” write Alistair MacDonald, Costas Paris, and Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal. “Port authorities are girding for a flood of arrivals as diverted ships and delayed Suez vessels arrive on top of regularly scheduled traffic…The wider ripple effects have executives forecasting problems will drag into the summer for an industry that operates on closely choreographed sailings and loadings schedules.”

Even before the Suez Canal incident, a long line of cargo ships were already anchored and waiting to unload at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “On Monday morning, 24 container ships—with a combined maximum carrying capacity nearly 10 times that of the newly freed ship—were anchored off the coast waiting for space at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California,” report Kara Dapena and  Dylan Moriarty in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s more from the article:

The two ports together handle more than a third of U.S. container imports, and delays there are part of a global supply-chain mess that continues even after the ships are unloaded. In January, more than a quarter of imported containers at those gateways had to wait more than five days for handling once they reached the dock, according to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. In June 2020, before the logjam, about 2% had to wait that long.

My wife and I bought a new sofa in February. Delivery date: unknown. “Most likely, the end of May or early June,” the salesperson told us at the time. That unreliable ETA seems even more unlikely today. “End of summer” is probably a better guess at this point.

Blume Maps (and Darwin)

Blume Global (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced this week Blume Maps, “a digital twin of the world’s supply chain powered by patented data science technology that creates dynamic lead time and ETA data.” Here are some details from the press release:

With Blume Maps, planning a freight shipment’s route and changing course during the journey if problems arise is as natural as using a navigation app during a family road trip.

Shippers and 3PLs rely on Blume Maps to generate accurate lead times, real-time shipment location and ETAs for over-the-road (LTL, FTL, and parcel), ocean, air, and rail freight. The solution can also provide alternative modes, carriers, and routes when shipments are behind schedule, enabling unrivaled supply chain planning and execution with end-to-end visibility throughout the world.

Blume Maps feeds Blume’s lead time and dynamic ETA engine from an ever-growing database of over 1.5 million global locations, ocean voyages, train journeys, flights and over-the-road moves (first and last mile) curated over decades.

As I commented last week regarding the Suez Canal incident, sometimes there is little you can do when you’re up against physical constraints in the supply chain. But knowing what those little things are that you can do and acting on it versus staying completely in the dark can make a huge difference. Of course, the more time you have, and the more data and intelligence at your disposal, the more opportunities you have to take corrective actions. As Darwin would have said if he had been a supply chain analyst, supply chains that best adapt to their environment are the most successful in surviving.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Wait” by White Lion