Feb 5, 2021

Vaccinating the globe demands global coordination

ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, ...
3 min
The COVID-19 vaccination effort requires global thinking from supply chain professionals who are experts at tackling the challenges facing this global task
The COVID-19 vaccination effort requires global thinking from supply chain professionals who are experts at tackling the challenges facing this global t...

Supply chains are weathering the extreme strain of a pandemic, geopolitical shifts, climate change and more. Now, the vaccination effort has them in the spotlight once again.

The greatest vaccination effort in history relies on successful delivery of billions of vaccines to myriad distribution sites while shoring up the supply of shots, masks, personal protective equipment, syringes, vials, dry ice and other cooling equipment to transport millions of doses. For the undertaking to succeed, supply chain professionals must be in the room. 

Operation Warp Speed was an extraordinary accomplishment, but we didn’t spend the same amount of time and effort addressing last-mile concerns. Vaccinating the world begins with the complete integration of factory workers, ultracold freezers, data scientists, truck drivers, pilots, dry ice, and healthcare workers all converging simultaneously at thousands of locations. It’s time for the experts to identify the demand; pinpoint the manufacturing capacity and asset management efficiency; ensure effective material flow, as well as information flow among stakeholders; and communicate what will be required for effective distribution. This is what supply chain professionals do each and every day.

“The only way to counteract a global pandemic is with a global response"

At the same time, we all must realise that the challenges associated with COVID-19 and getting people vaccinated are not unique to any particular area; they are pervasive problems to be solved. Therefore, we need to have broader conversations with those representing both public and private enterprises about consistency and accessibility in regions and populations that have been traditionally underserved. These people are facing significant challenges. And it’s in our own best interest to help them overcome them and get the world vaccinated. The only way to counteract a global pandemic is with a global response. 

Supply chain professionals also have the expertise to put together a fact-based, data-driven plan — and execute it. The strategy requires unparalleled visibility and data transparency among all trading partners relative to capabilities and capacities. Information-sharing and global data standardisation will enable the shift from putting out fires to predicting them. Meanwhile, enhanced visibility can be achieved by taking a more proactive approach to digital supply chain and fully integrated, end-to-end networks. 

There also must be clear and actionable data about COVID testing capacity and vaccination delivery. We currently have an acute problem of hospitals being overwhelmed, and it’s only going to get worse as we race against emerging virus strains. Supply chain professionals can explore alternate vaccination sites while ensuring higher throughput. They can design the necessary processes and identify locations that will be able to deliver, whether that’s clinics, pharmacies, convention centers, stadiums or something else altogether. 

Lessons learned from the supply chain disruptions of 2020 must now be absorbed and applied to the vaccine distribution effort. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. But when we work together, we can address critical global challenges, achieve brighter futures and create a better world through supply chain.

 Abe Eshkenazi is CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the world's largest non-profit association for supply chain

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May 17, 2021

Suez Canal expansion plans greenlit by Egyptian president

2 min
Work to begin on two-year project that will enlarge narrow sections and extend second lane near the Suez Canal’s southern stretch

The Suez Canal is to undergo a two-year expansion project, following the weeklong closure of the channel by the stranded Ever Given container ship in March.

Plans set forth to expand narrow sections of the Suez Canal have been greenlit by the Egyptian president to safeguard against future blockages.

Dredgers will widen and deepen the single-lane stretch close to the southern mouth of the canal, near where the 400m container ship got wedged earlier this year, while a second lane opened in 2015 will be extended to promote two-way traffic and alleviate the impact of bottlenecks. 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave the order to “immediately start implementing the proposed development plan and put in place a timetable for completion as soon as possible”, according to reports. It is understood he expects the work to be fully completed within two years. 

Ever Given negotiations rage on 

The Ever Given left hundreds of ships stranded and disrupted an estimated $9.5bn in goods each day when it became wedged across a narrow passage of the trade route in March. After a week of dredging, towing and manoeuvring, it was eventually freed from the banks of the Suez Canal in the early hours of 29 March and set course of the Bitter Lakes holding area. 

There the vessel, its crew and its cargo have remained ever since, while legal action between Egyptian authorities and the ship’s owners rages on, though SCA chairman and Managing Director, Admiral Osama Rabie, refutes allegations that crew have been detained. 

“[There] is no truth in the allegations of detaining the ship crew, pointing to that the SCA does not mind the departure or recrew operations provided the presence of the sufficient number of sailors to secure the vessel and in the light of the presence of the ship captain as he stands as the juridical guardian of the ship and the cargo aboard,” Rabie said in a statement

The SCA initially sought $916m in compensation to cover refloatation costs, including repairs where the channel was damaged to move the vessel, bonuses for the rescue crews who worked throughout the jam, and a package for “loss of reputation”. 

Now the SCA and its chairman and Managing Director, Admiral Osama Rabie, have agreed to reduce the bill by a third. The authority has reportedly offered payment terms for the $600m to the Ever Given’s owner Shoei Kisen. Shoei Kisen has also declared a general average on the goods on board, with shippers liable to shoulder a significant outlay to get the 18,000-plus containers aboard to their final destination in the Nertherlands. 

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