Mar 29, 2021

Ever Given refloatation raises hopes of Suez Canal reopening

Rhys Thomas
3 min
Authorities say the vessel may be shifted today and navigation of the major trading route “shall be resumed immediately”
Authorities say the vessel may be shifted today and navigation of the major trading route “shall be resumed immediately...

The Ever Given container ship, which has blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday, has been successfully refloated and partially freed from the bank where it has been wedged for almost a week. 

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) confirmed on Monday morning that the vessel has recovered around 80% of its direction after tug boats managed to manoeuvred its stern 100 metres away from the bank. 

Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman and Managing Director of the SCA, said recovery teams are aiming to move the vessel to the centre of the canal and set it back on course later today, during high tide. Once the container ship is fully refloated, it will be moved from the single-lane channel towards the Bitter Lakes holding area and navigation “shall be resumed immediately”, said Rabie. 

Is the damage already done? 

It’s is estimated that around $9.5bn worth of goods per day have been left stranded at either end of the canal, or otherwise delayed. Some shipments that were far enough away from the canal to divert their course have attempted to traverse the Cape of Good Hope.

But while the Ever Given may be 80% corrected, "the remaining 20% continues to damage global supply chains,” warns Tom Fairbairn, Distinguished Engineer at Solace. “Over 18,000 containers still have no fixed delivery date. To reduce the impact of events such as these supply chains need to be reactive and agile. Digitised supply chains and technology help organisations adapt to disruptions faster and better, reducing the cost impact and downstream impact on customers.”

The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA) said businesses should expect high delays in shipments, increased costs, and product shortages, as the blockage compounds prevailing issues such as container shortages and COVID-19-related restrictions. 

“The fact is that an already heavily disrupted maritime supply chain has taken another hit that will further affect its fluidity, with long-term consequences related to congestions, lead times and predictability,” said Jens Roemer, Chair of FIATA’s Working Group Sea Transport.

Insurance backlog 

When trade resumes, Mark Robinson, president at UPS Capital, the insurance and financial services division of UPS, expects a flurry of claims - but warns there will be further bad news for some policyholders. 

“Once the logjam at the Suez Canal has been cleared, businesses with goods aboard the vessel - in addition to other ships delayed by the blockage – will begin the claims process to recoup losses from damaged cargo and general average losses,” he said.

“These are often time-intensive processes, and many businesses may be surprised to learn that carriers do not include coverage in the case of route disruption and often don’t cover losses associated with general average,” he added. “If claims go unpaid, the damages to a business’ bottom line are further compounded by impacts to brand reputation.”

A recent GEP study found that damaged brand reputation was one of the biggest concerns for supply chain professionals amid the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Of 400 C-suite executives in supply chain, procurement, strategy and other associated disciplines questioned in the report, 40% said their brand image had been markedly tarnished due to disrupted supply chains, while almost a third reported a rise in customer complaints, and a quarter had lost regular customers. 

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Jun 15, 2021

FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles

3 min
FedEx is expanding a trial of autonomous vehicles in its last-mile logistics process with partner Nuro, including multi-stop and appointment deliveries

FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics. 

The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener". 

FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, beyond the boundaries mass movement of goods from A-B. The logistics company says the exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its experimentation in new autonomy solutions, both in-warehouse and on-road. 

“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, vice president, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”


The changing role of couriers 

Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time. 

But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse. 

“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”

Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds. 

Last mile's role in ESG

Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings. 

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