There are no reported changes since the beginning of the crisis in the situation of the European ports, the only change is that the number of blank sailings is augmented, so the frequencies coming from Africa are reduced. All European ports remain operational; Antwerp port even reported an exceptional increase in reefer containers for the season, especially with cargo containing food and medicines. Rotterdam registered a small decrease in operations, Le Havre and Hamburg are also working regularly.
Logistics company Maersk provides a Market Operational Status tool that allows users to determine the countries experiencing significant disruption, and captures and updates daily the latest operational status for each country. The purpose of this section is only informative: we have received reports of certain difficulties in some countries that are not included in the Maersk review. An additional report from CMA CGM provides their local offices.
It is good to check the possibility to switch from air freight-only to multimodal transport that can reduce significantly the cost of freight. For example, the transit time from African west coast ports to Algeciras port in Spain is significantly lower than the transit time to ports in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, which means that if we use a combined reefer freight from Senegal to Belgium (sea + road transportation) we could lower the transit time to 8 days in total, when a regular sea freight would take at least 18 days. From Cameroon to Belgium using multimodal transport (sea + road transportation) it would take approximately 15 days, instead of 30 days of sea freight transit. This could help find alternatives to expensive air freight costs. Of course, not all horticultural products are suitable for multimodal transport. Also, logistics has to be perfectly matched once the products arrive at the first European port in order to continue to its final destination.
Below are some reference transit times to Algeciras port in Spain:
- Dakar-Algeciras: transit time 5 days
- Douala-Algeciras: transit time 10–12 days
- Lomé-Algeciras: transit time 10–14 days
- Abidjan-Algeciras: transit time 8 days
Maersk also publishes Ocean Service Adjustments which includes a list of cancelled sailings around the world, ordered by continent.
Rate announcements: Inland Haulage Import (IHI) – Uganda (Maersk News, 16 July.
What does the future hold for reefer shipping and the cold chain?
Despite the impact of COVID-19 on the supply chain, the transportation of perishable goods is set to grow in 2020 as plant-based diets become popular and demand for high vitamin products increases (Port Technology, 20 July). Refrigerated (reefer) shipping could become one of the most important drivers of supply chain and maritime growth in the coming years. Consequently, carriers see reefer containers as vital tools in their end-to-end offering. Their durability means perishable goods can travel across greater distances than before, where businesses can export perishable goods to a bigger customer base. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated growth as consumers look for ways to strengthen immune systems, which means traffic of fresh fruit is increasing. A good example is South African exports of lemons, which in April 2020 were double what they were in 2019. The optimism is evident in carriers’ strategies. Maersk, through its subsidiary Maersk Container Industries (MCI), delivered 500 CA containers to ZIM Integrated Shipping (ZIM) to help it reach new markets. In April 2020 it delivered a further 1,800 reefer containers to customers in South Africa to meet the boom in demand. The effects of reefer shipping have also been felt on land as ports expand and diversify their operations to meet the needs of carriers.
Maersk: New digital platform for more flow in supply chain management
Maersk’s “Flow” solution is intended to increase transparency in critical supply chain processes (Fruchthandel, 28 July). By comparing current and historical data, the parties involved in the supply chain also receive all the information they need to sustainably improve their supply chain. “We are very excited about the release of Maersk Flow, which gives customers a digital supply chain management tool that is specifically tailored to their needs. This enables them to concentrate more resources on their core business and achieve higher sales growth,”says Martin Holme, Global Head of SCM and E-Commerce Logistics, AP Moller – Maersk.
Conventional shipping and COVID-19 inSouth Africa
Citrus companies are setting an example with their increased return to conventional shipping this season, in large degree to compensate for the delays and inefficiencies at the Cape Town Container Terminal (Fresh Plaza, 21 July). “Year to date, we are already loading the sixteenth vessel destined for Europe and Russia, which is on average about three to four vessels more than what we got used to over the last couple of citrus seasons,” says Charles Gantz, managing director at Anlin Shipping, South African representative of the Reefer Alliance. Since April citrus exporters have seen that using conventional shipping means their volumes are moving. Their conventional vessels are loaded at Bidfreight Port Operations in Port Elizabeth and at FPT in Cape Town and Durban. European volumes have risen strongly. “If you look at the amount of South African citrus shipped to Europe every week, the rate at which it moves is actually incredible. Usually by this time we’d start getting reports that overseas coldstores are filling up, but not this year. We are by no means experts on marketing and sales, but from what we are hearing, there’s still space for South African product and sales are good.”
Benin terminal sees first 300 m container ship
On 18 July Benin Terminal welcomed the “CCNI ARAUCO”, the largest ship to have ever berthed at Cotonou (Railways Africa, 24 July). The 300 m long Maersk ship weighing over 100,062 tonnes, sailing under the Hong Kong flag, berthed at Benin Terminal’s berth No. 10. Thanks to the actions implemented by Benin Terminal in synergy with the Autonomous Port of Cotonou, four other ships of this size have already been announced over the next few days on Benin Terminal’s berths. Large-capacity ships calling at the Port of Cotonou reinforces Benin Terminal’s aim of becoming a growing regional logistics hub for Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.