Coronavirus: Managing The Uncontrollable

Every year, global supply chains are met with a series of uncontrollable events, circumstances, or issues that are difficult or near impossible to plan for. Logistics executives are forced to throw out their playbook and operate in a new and often unfamiliar world. A resilient bunch, our industry always adapts, innovates, and presses forward. 

Naively, we sometimes rationalize next quarter or year will be different. After all, how could THAT happen again? Then to our surprise, a new disruptor pops up and we find ourselves running again to mitigate a new or unfamiliar risk.

For example, below is a brief list of recent illustrations. 

  • West Coast Labor Issues: Shifting of cargo to the Gulf and East Coast
  • Tariff Uncertainty: U.S. imports and exports
  • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, flooding
  • Cyber Attacks aimed at shutting down systems
  • And now, the Coronavirus which is paralyzing manufacturing, shipping, and distribution in one of the world’s largest economies, China, along with Italy.

The Coronavirus hit at a critical time of the year in Asia-U.S. trade. Every year, the supply chain is impacted by Chinese New Year, when factories shut down, workers return home, and trade diminishes for a few weeks. 

This year, the holiday was officially extended to aide in stopping the spread of the virus. The additional week does not take into account the reduction of ships skipping calls in China, empties that are stacking up, and goods that will soon stack up on U.S. ports and warehouse docks, awaiting shipping capacity to return to be received by China. 

March is slower than originally predicted in these trade lanes, followed by a surge of pent up volumes waiting to be released in April/ May, during the usual spring seasonal push.

As we speak with customers, they are busy mitigating risk by diversifying their routing, ports of entry, and even changing long-term sourcing strategies.

From a transportation drayage perspective, systems visibility and forecasting of the upcoming wave of freight has never been more critical. 

Those with visibility will mitigate risk and those without could suffer tremendous cost increases in the form of storage, per diem, demurrage, and chassis days through bunching of freight.

Gulf Winds offers web-based container management through our proprietary system, gwiTrack. We can provide critical reporting, visibility, or sharing of information to our customer’s systems by API/ EDI. Best of all its free of charge when we manage your freight.

Together let’s work to mitigate our risk of the “uncontrollable” in 2020 and beyond. 

Patrick Maher 
Executive Vice President // Gulf Winds

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