China is back in business with the majority of its manufacturers working in some capacity. However, this regeneration after the impact of Covid 19, faces a new set of challenges.
Supply of raw materials and the shortage of skilled labour are pushing manufacturers to resort to new and sometimes untested suppliers which in turn may affect production quality. Furthermore, the risk of financial instability and the increasing presence of fraudsters is emerging, enhanced by remote working and subcontracting production to untried vendors. For those companies around the world seeking to obtain goods from China, storage space can be in short supply. By prioritising medical supplies, other less urgent goods are being put on hold. Although the airline industry is working hard to meet such supply demands, capacity in China is still inadequate. Many shipping lines have removed surcharges on reefer shipments and the railways are expecting to restart freight deliveries. However with the crisis developing rapidly in both Europe and the USA, normal traffic remains in a state of uncertainty.
In the meantime, freight rates on major trades are increasing largely due to high export volumes coupled with a lack of capacity. Comparisons are being made with the financial problems of 2009.
Many retailers and store owners in Europe and the USA, being forced to close during coronavirus lockdown, have cancelled as many orders and contracts as possible in the hope that they can claim under their insurance policies force majeure provisions. This risks are leaving containers loaded with unwanted or cancelled goods at Chinese ports. Meanwhile, FIATA is urging governments to keep ports open to allow much needed goods to move. It is being reported that some online shopping platforms are allowing profiteering by some sellers, with some basic household items being offered at up to 10 times the normal retail price. Of course, this practice can only flourish if consumers are willing to pay.
With an overall feeling of slightly increasing optimism however, it is conceivable that normal conditions could return within a few months.
The Seatrade Maritime Middle East conference, planned for 7th to the ninth December in Dubai,UAE will be concentrating on the future technology of the shipping industry including- artificial intelligence, alternative fuels, block chain, cyber security and much more. The full programme will be published during the spring period.