Here we are in February 2022, and we’re still leading many of our global feature stories with terms like “port congestion,” “lack of containers,” “widespread labor shortages,” “hyper-tight capacity,” and “skyrocketing rates.” These barriers have all culminated into the “global supply chain disruption” that we’ve all heard much about.
This month we offer our Annual Global Logistics issue designed to help readers better manage through this whirlpool that’s pulled so much productivity out of our operations. The goal is to better understand where we are in terms of global services and technology and help shippers control what they can control while moving freight during this period.
LM’s European correspondent Dagmar Trepins takes us around the globe to give us a peek at the current realities at some of the world’s busiest ports; shares the latest ocean cargo volumes and projections; offers an update on some global services expansions; and tips us off to the possibility of a new, mega-services group taking shape in China.
“Early forecasts suggest that the seemingly endless chain reaction of roadblocks is going to keep us mired in a rut for at least the first half of this year,” says Trepins. “However, we are starting to see some ‘easing’ of congestion at a few key port gateways.”
Trepins points out that while the pandemic certainly exposed the vulnerability of global supply chains, her sources contend that it may have been the wake-up call the world needed to boost investments in transport infrastructure, software and automation.
“While there’s still a lot of work to do, the global logistics sector has proven its ability to provide flexible and creative solutions, and has shown a high degree of flexibility and close cooperation between all parties around the globe in response to the crisis,” adds Trepins.
Contributing editor Karen Thuermer reports that challenges facing ocean shippers have pushed them to test the limits of those “flexible” relationships, as many worked with their third-party partners to divert shipments to alternate ports of entry, new transport modes, and even higher-priced, alternative providers to get the job done.
“As our key contacts at Drewry suggest,” says Thuermer, “it’s now more important than ever for shippers to strengthen carrier relationships and business continuity plans. But a good first step is to optimize internal operations and improve volume forecasts—in other words, better control what you can control before the next shock takes you by surprise.”
And while we still can’t shake all of those negative terms, global trade made a strong comeback in 2021. As contributing editor Bridget McCrea reports as part of her annual GTM software update, world trade jumped up 23% to $28 trillion in 2021, exceeding the 2019 pre-pandemic total by nearly $3 trillion, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
“The UN report states that during Q3 of 2021 alone, global goods trade set a new all-time record when it reached $5.6 trillion,” says McCrea. “So, even though those persistent challenges are setting up another uncertain year ahead, consumer demand for products doesn’t appear to be waning—in fact it’s more vigorous than ever.