Mar 25, 2021

Suez: Navigation of vital shipping lane suspended

Rhys Thomas
3 min
Vessels halted by the Suez Canal Authority as efforts to refloat stranded cargo ship blocking the narrow shipping lane enter the third day
Vessels halted by the Suez Canal Authority as efforts to refloat stranded cargo ship blocking the narrow shipping lane enter the third day...

Navigation through the Suez Canal has been officially suspended after attempts to refloat the container ship wedged across a single-lane stretch of the narrow shipping lane failed. 

Admiral Osama Rabie, Chairman and Managing Director of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) declared this morning that no vessels would be allowed to pass through the canal “until the floatation works of the large Panamanian container vessel EVER GIVEN […] are complete”.

The MV Ever Given was reportedly hit by high-speed winds that spun the vessel sideways and run it aground early on Tuesday morning. The container ship is one of the largest in the world at 400 metres long, able to carry around 20,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU). Owned by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corp., it was transporting freight from China, bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 

Vessels stranded

More than a dozen vessels have been forced to drop anchor in the Bitter Lakes. A statement for the SCA said: “Yesterday witnessed the transit of 13 vessels from Port Said, among the Northern convoy, that were expected to continue their transit through the Canal according to projections on the time of completion of the floatation works of the grounding vessel. However, an alternative scenario had to be adopted, which entailed those vessels dropping anchor in the Bitter Lakes waiting area, until navigation can be fully resumed after the floatation of the vessels.”

It is believed at least 150 vessels have been delayed at either end of the canal. Attempts to push the wedged container ship back into deep water have so far failed. Eight large tugboats - the most powerful of which has a towing power of 160 tons - resumed their attmepts on Thursday morning, following a short overnight break at low-tide. Diggers are attempting to release the ship from the banks of the canal, though they have so far been unable to excavate enough soil. If the current efforts to dislodge the Ever Given fail, authorities fear an unloading exercise could potentially take weeks.


The blockage could have a major impact on global supply chains. On average, two ships an hour pass through the manmade strait. 

Ian Stone, CEO, Vuealta, says supply chain and logistics professionals impacted by the blockage will need to evaluate the longterm ramifications. “The key with the Suez situation is the ability for the cargo ships behind Ever Given to make decisions and forecast outcomes,” he says. “What is the impact to my end customer if this is longer than 2 days? What additional costs will we incur by re-routing via the Cape? Is there a weather event on the alternative route that would mean we would be better to stay put for longer and see this through?. The outcomes can impact cost, service, waste and time, all expensive commodities, so the right decisions need to be made by scenario modelling the drivers in real time.”

Images: Suez Canal Authority 

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Jun 8, 2021

DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID

3 min
Global logistics leader DHL’s new white paper highlights what supply chain professionals have learned one year into the pandemic

Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.


This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go. 


Public-Private Partnerships

With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”. 


Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats. 


In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.


“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”. 


How Do We Sustain Immunisation? 

By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”. 


Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared. 

Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.

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