OPINION: Finding an Operation Stack alternative will not solve Cross-Channel Crisis
The Garden of England has become a giant lorry park for much of June and July, causing varying degrees...
The Garden of England has become a giant lorry park for much of June and July, causing varying degrees of frustration and misery for Kent's residents and businesses, as well as those who rely on the county's roads and motorways to get where they need to be – notably beleaguered HGV drivers.
Operation Stack, used since 1996, usually because of poor weather disrupting shipping, is rarely used for more than a few hours or a day or two at a time. However June and July of this year have seen an "unprecedented" use of the tactic (24 out of the past 40 days) with no sign of letting up. The Freight Transport Association (FTA)'s Southeast Policy Head, Natalie Chapman has said, "The people of Kent and the haulage companies put up with it because it's just for a short time. This year has changed that though."
It is a costly exercise, not just in terms of policing but also the knock-on effect to those caught up in the queues or finding alternative routes around Kent. Operation Stack poses a huge strain on both the UK and European supply chain. The FTA estimates that it has cost the haulage industry £750,000 per day, and £250m to the UK economy as a whole. The value of perished fresh produce alone exceeds £10m.
Priority Freight has seen a significant increase in expedited freight requests over the past two months. Whilst most manufacturers expect some expedited services to meet customer requirements, the ultimate goal is to reduce that need. However Operation Stack has meant manufacturers have had no choice but to find alternative, more costly transport solutions, such as emergency airfreight. Additional costs affects margins, having a bigger impact on the manufacturing industry.
While issues need to be urgently reviewed to ease the congestion, simply finding an alternative to Operation Stack is not the solution. The problems don't begin and end in Kent, or Calais, it's the crises that necessitate Operation Stack in the first place that need to be addressed.
Viable alternatives to Operation Stack are in short supply – a contraflow system, suggested by the FTA, and lorry parks at the showground in Detling and the closed Manston Airport have all been rejected.
But sourcing a better quality sticking plaster is not going to mend what is ultimately a much deeper wound. Politics aside, Britain finds itself in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, as desperate men, women and children risk their lives to enter this country on a daily basis. Eurotunnel said it has blocked 37,000 attempts by migrants to make their way into Britain so far this year, with large-scale attempts to storm the terminal just this week.
Of course we need to look at ways of easing traffic flow in Kent, to allow people and businesses to return to some semblance of their normal routines. However, the ultimate responsibility rests with the leaders of Europe to find a compassionate solution to remedy the ceaseless misery caused by what is a very human problem.
By Ed Bembridge, Operations Manager, Priority Freight
Cainiao Network Launches Customer-Centric Logistics
As the logistics division of the Alibaba Group, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network has decided to provide its Southeast Asian customers with unsurpassed service during its annual shopping festival. Based on customer feedback surveys, the company will expand its real-time customer service support and speed up delivery times. ‘By expanding and deepening our services, we aim to provide a stronger logistics infrastructure that can bolster the booming eCommerce sector, support merchants’ expansion into new markets and diversify retail options for consumers’, said Chris Fan, Head of Cross-Border, Singapore, Cainiao Network.
Who Is Cainiao?
According to TIME Magazine, Cainiao ‘is far from a typical logistics firm’. The company controls an open platform that allows it to collaborate with 3,000 logistics partners and 3 million couriers. This means that merchants can choose the least expensive and most efficient shipping options, based on Cainiao’s real-time logistics analytics. The company’s goal is to ship packages anywhere in the world in under 72 hours—and for less than US$3.00.
For countless small business owners around the world, from coffee-growers to textile-weavers, this could change everything. Usually, it costs about US$100 to ship a DHL envelope from Shanghai to London in five days. Cainiao aims to change that. Said its CEO Wan Lin: ‘The biggest barrier to globalisation is logistics’.
What’s Part of the Upgrade?
Throughout the Tmall festival, Cainiao’s logistics upgrade will be divided into four critical segments:
- Real-time customer service support. Cainiao has launched a direct WhatsApp channel for customers to receive logistics updates and ask questions.
- Expansion of air freight parcel size and weight limits. Packages can now be up to 30 kilograms or 1-metre x 1.6 meters to help ship large items such as furniture.
- Daily air and sea freight connections. Shipping frequency will almost double to seven times weekly to maintain resilience and efficiency.
- Compensation for lost or damaged packages. Customers will be reimbursed up to RMB 2,000 (US$311).
Where is the Company Headed?
From June 1st to June 20th, the finale of Tmall, Cainiao will ensure that its customers feel confident in the company’s ability to deliver their packages. Despite global shipping delays due to COVID, the show will go on. Said Fan: ‘This series of customer-centric logistics upgrades reaffirms our goal of pursuing value-added services to enhance customers’ shopping experience while mitigating challenges posed by external factors’.
Furthermore, Cainiao has recently expanded its Southeast Asian operations, achieving revenue growth of 68% year-over-year. In Malaysia, the logistics operation has partnered with BEST Inc. and Yunda; in Singapore, the company has partnered with Roadbull, Park & Parcel, and the Singapore Post. And if its recent measures help retain and grow its customer base, the company will be well-poised to lead the industry in resilient and customer-centric global logistics. ‘COVID-19 made everyone realise how important the logistics infrastructure backbone is’, said Wan. ‘And it gave us a peek at what Cainiao should look like in three years’.