The workers who keep global supply chains moving are warning of a 'system collapse'

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The workers who keep global supply chains moving are warning of a 'system collapse'​

London (CNN Business)Seafarers, truck drivers and airline workers have endured quarantines, travel restrictions and complex Covid-19 vaccination and testing requirements to keep stretched supply chains moving during the pandemic.
But many are now reaching their breaking point, posing yet another threat to the badly tangled network of ports, container vessels and trucking companies that moves goods around the world.
In an open letter Wednesday to heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and other industry groups warned of a "global transport system collapse" if governments do not restore freedom of movement to transport workers and give them priority to receive vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization
"Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years' worth of strain on transport workers take their toll," the groups wrote. The letter has also been signed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). Together they represent 65 million transport workers globally.
"All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat," it added.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the ICS, said that worker shortages are likely to worsen towards the end of the year because seafarers may not want to commit to new contracts and risk not making it home for Christmas given port shutdowns and constant changes to travel restrictions.

Fragile supply chains​

That will heap pressure on stretched supply chains and could, for example, worsen current challenges with food and fuel supply in the United Kingdom.
"The global supply chain is very fragile and depends as much on a seafarer [from the Philippines] as it does on a truck driver to deliver goods," added Stephen Cotton, ITF secretary general. "The time has come for heads of government to respond to these workers' needs."
When Karynn Marchal and her crew were told that they wouldn't be allowed to go on shore upon docking in Hokkaido, Japan it was a big hit to morale.
"None of us knew how long it would go on for," the 28-year old chief officer of a car-carrying ship told CNN Business.
That was more than 18 months ago. Marchal — and hundreds of thousands of seafarers like her — have not been permitted shore leave since.
After weeks on board a ship, a couple of hours on shore provides much needed respite. But seafarers can only leave a vessel in order to travel elsewhere, usually to return home. Marchal considers herself "one of the luckier ones," because she has at least been able to make it home to the United States.
"There are people who have been stuck at sea for over a year," she said.
Early in the pandemic, many seafarers agreed to extend their contracts by several months to keep supplies of food, fuel, medicine and other consumer goods flowing around the world. The grounding of planes and border closures had made it almost impossible to move workers from one part of the world to another and to swap crews.
At the peak of the crisis in 2020, 400,000 seafarers were unable to leave their ships for routine changeovers, some working for as long as 18 months beyond the end of their initial contracts, according to the ICS.

Multiple vaccinations, repeated testing​

While these numbers have improved, crew changes remain a major challenge. Some travel restrictions were reimposed as a result of the coronavirus Delta variant and transport workers continue to face a myriad of vaccine and testing requirements just to do their jobs. Often these are imposed at a moment's notice, said Platten.
Inconsistent requirements mean that some seafarers have been vaccinated multiple times because some countries have approved only certain vaccines, according to Platten.
He knows of at least one seafarer who has received six vaccine doses, or three two-dose regimens. "It's an absolute nightmare. I can't understand why we don't have some sort of global standard," he told CNN Business.
Meanwhile, the unequal distribution of vaccines globally means that only about 25% to 30% of seafarers, many of who are from India and the Philippines, are fully vaccinated, according to Platten.

Coronavirus testing is also a challenge. In February, Germany unilaterally introduced mandatory PCR testing with no exemption for truck drivers, leading neighboring countries including Italy to impose similar restrictions to avoid having thousands of drivers stranded in their own territory.
These measures affected thousands of truck drivers, particularly on the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, forcing them to queue for days in sub-zero temperatures with no food or medical facilities. The EU Digital Covid Certificate has since eased some of the pressure, but bottlenecks remain.
"Drivers have faced hundreds of border issues and blockades through the pandemic," said Umberto de Pretto, IRU secretary general. "Truck drivers, and the citizens and businesses that depend on the goods they move, pay a heavy price for misguided Covid restrictions that do not exempt transport workers," he added.
Coronavirus testing is also a challenge. In February, Germany unilaterally introduced mandatory PCR testing with no exemption for truck drivers, leading neighboring countries including Italy to impose similar restrictions to avoid having thousands of drivers stranded in their own territory.
These measures affected thousands of truck drivers, particularly on the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, forcing them to queue for days in sub-zero temperatures with no food or medical facilities. The EU Digital Covid Certificate has since eased some of the pressure, but bottlenecks remain.
"Drivers have faced hundreds of border issues and blockades through the pandemic," said Umberto de Pretto, IRU secretary general. "Truck drivers, and the citizens and businesses that depend on the goods they move, pay a heavy price for misguided Covid restrictions that do not exempt transport workers," he added.

 

YancyW

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Well that's less than ideal. I have tons of dental supplies on backorder, some have been weeks now. If it gets worse, before it gets better, that is going to be a real problem.
 

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Leftist policies are wrecking global supply chains and triggering shortages and looming hyperinflation. Stand by for capitalism to be blamed​

By Thomas Lifson


We already see soaring prices, empty store shelves, shortages of critical products, factories shut down, workers unemployed, and people freezing in their homes. Soon, progressives will be blaming capitalism itself and demanding more government controls if not the outright seizure of the means of production. But in fact, these disruptions to what had been a smoothly operating integrated global economy that had raised hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the last three decades are all due to progressive policies being enforced by those very governments that stand ready to seize even more power over our lives.
There are multiple sources of the troubles bedeviling the international division of labor, but they all have one thing in common: bad government policies pushed by progressives.
Start with COVID, a highly communicable virus that can be lethal if left untreated, especially in people with comorbidities including obesity and diabetes. Governments around the world for the first time in human history decided to quarantine the healthy, not the sick, and went into "lockdowns" for a disease that has a 99.5% recovery rate is most dangerous to an identifiable subset of their populations: the elderly, the obese, and the already ill.
Those lockdowns constricted production, and the resulting unemployment temporarily deferred demand for many goods, including durables like cars and home appliances. In the United States, tax-free payments were offered to unemployed people that were more lucrative than the taxable wages they might receive if they returned to work, resulting in a predictable artificial labor shortage, further crimping the manufacture and distribution of many goods.
Many of the same factors were at work internationally. Jack Phillips of the Epoch Times explains:
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The International Chamber of Shipping, a coalition of truck drivers, seafarers, and airline workers, has warned in a letter to heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly that governments need to restore freedom of movement to transportation workers amid persistent COVID-19 restrictions and quarantines.
If nothing is done, they warned of a "global transport system collapse" and suggested that "global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years' worth of strain on transport workers take their toll," according to the letter. It was signed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Road Transport Union (IRU), and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which represent some 65 million transport workers around the world.
"All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat," the letter said. "We also ask that WHO and the ILO raise this at the U.N. General Assembly and call on heads of government to take meaningful and swift action to resolve this crisis now," they wrote.
With demand surging for goods that consumers deferred purchasing, and with worker shortages hindering resupply, choke points are developing all over the world.
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, attempted to shed some light on the problem during a recent ABC News interview, noting that there's a significant backup of container ships off the coast of major ports of entry.

"We're witnessing a pandemic-induced buying surge by the American consumer, the likes of which we've never seen," he told the network on Sept. 29.
It's gotten to the point where at least one major retailer is attempting to bypass normal transport systems:
Costco said it's chartering its own container ships between Asia and North America amid supply chain issues worldwide, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said in a recent conference call.
Costco, he said, is dealing with "port delays, container shortages, COVID disruptions, shortages on various components, raw materials and ingredients, labor cost pressures" along with "trucks and driver shortages," Fox News reported.
These COVID-induced shortages are stoking inflation.
In remarks on Sept. 29, [Federal Reserve chairman] Powell said that the current spike in inflation is a "consequence of supply constraints meeting very strong demand," saying it's "associated with the reopening of the economy, which is a process that will have a beginning, middle and an end."
The other progressive policy initiative wreaking havoc is green energy mandates. European countries have chosen to forsake existing reliable and abundant energy sources like coal for unreliable wind and solar, and now they are seeing soaring energy prices because the wind hasn't been blowing as much as usual lately. Greg Miller of Freightways, a transportation industry publication, writes:
There's panic-buying of gasoline in the U.K. Natural gas prices in Europe and Asia are skyrocketing. Protests are breaking out across Europe due to spiking electricity bills. India and China are short of coal for utilities. Power is being rationed to factories in multiple Chinese provinces — and winter is coming.
First came the COVID-induced global supply chain crisis for container shipping. Now comes a power crunch across Asia and Europe. Energy commodity stockpiles — just like U.S. retail inventories — did not build back up fast enough to contend with post-lockdown demand.
China, which has become "the workshop of the world" as a low-cost exporter of manufactured goods, is facing serious electricity shortages.
According to Bloomberg, power use is now being curbed by tight supply and emissions restrictions in the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong.
Bloomberg quoted Nomura analyst Ting Lu as stating, "The power curbs will ripple through and impact global markets. Very soon the global markets will feel the pinch of a shortage of supply from textiles and toys to machine parts."
Nikkei reported that an affiliate of Foxconn, the world's biggest iPhone assembler and a key supplier of Apple and Tesla, halted production at its facility in Kunshan in Jiangsu Province on Sunday due to lack of electricity supply. Another Apple supplier, Unimicron Technologies, also halted production in Kunshan on Sunday, said Nikkei, citing regulatory filings.
The New York Times reported on power outages in the heart of China's southern manufacturing belt, in Guandong. Factories in the city of Dongguan have not had electricity since last Wednesday. The Times interviewed a general manager of a Dongguan factory that produces leather shoes for the U.S. market who has kept his operation running with a diesel generator and who said that power outages began this summer.
Stoppages of Chinese factories would further delay deliveries of U.S. imports, which have already been waylaid by extreme congestion at ports in Southern California and, more recently, ports in China.
You can blame the electricity shortages on the greenies:
In particular, thermal coal — coal used for power generation — faces steep restrictions in access to capital for environmental reasons.
Remember this?
"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted," Obama said during a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board. Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also pledged that "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."
It's worked, and not just in the United States. Western European nations, led by Germany, have shut down coal mines and thermal power stations in favor of wind and solar and other unreliable power sources that are called "renewable" — all based on computer models that predict rising global temperatures, though none of their past predictions has come true.
In China's case, COVID plays an indirect role in the electricity shortage. When Australia demanded an investigation into the creation and release of the COVID virus in China, that nation responded with an economic boycott of Aussie coal, wines, and a few other commodities. That Aussie coal has proven difficult to replace at anything close to a reasonable price.
Energy markets respond quickly to shortages, and other fuels are also jumping in price, particularly in Asia and Europe:
The shortfall of natural gas in Europe and Asia is clearly evident in historically high natural gas spot prices.
The Asia benchmark, the Japan-Korea Marker (JKM), had risen to $27.50 per million British Thermal Units (MMBtu) on Friday, nearly double the August price. The two European benchmarks, TTF Netherlands and the National Balancing Point (NBP), have risen in lockstep with the JKM, to $26.51 and $26.23 per MMBtu, respectively. TTF and NBP are at all-time highs. The U.S. Henry Hub price has risen, but to far below these levels, at $5.51.
Globalism, a transformation of the location of economic activity based on open markets and low shipping costs, is starting to fall apart under these pressures. It has savaged manufacturing in the United States in particular, while enriching the corporate and financial elites. Ironically, these elites have heavily backed progressive political factions and their policies, which are now placing pressure on globalism's ability to withstand disruption. A further irony is China's dictator, Xi Jinping, who unleashed COVID on the world by allowing international but not domestic flights from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is now stuck in a corner he has painted himself into. The coal shortage engineered by his bullying of Australia is forcing him to choose between running factories and keeping households supplied with electricity and heating the coming winter, which can be brutal in northern China in particular. The Communist Party's legitimacy has come to depend heavily on providing a rising standard of living. That will be difficult to maintain, even before any consideration of the looming financial troubles of heavily leveraged property developers, whose insolvency could have ripple effects on the entire Chinese economy.
But one thing is true in China, Western Europe, and North America. Progressives always blame someone else, usually capitalists, and they have the support of the major media organs. So the probability of progressives taking a hit for their mischief is not too high.

 

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It's a never ending supply chain catastrophe which will continue to cripple economies worldwide for some time to come. This really shows the vulnerabilities with the "just in time" philosophy in our global transportation networks. Computer chip production here in the US gave way to companies manufacturing them overseas to take advantage of cheap labor, reduced taxes and lack of environmental regulations. Now, they and we are paying for it in a BIG way with no Plan B to mitigate the shortages.
 

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US Postal Service suspends mail deliveries to NZ​

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has suspended mail deliveries to New Zealand because of an unavailability of transportation.
The USPS said on its website it was temporarily suspending international mail acceptance for a number of destinations.
It said this was because of "impacts related to the Covid-19 pandemic and other unrelated service disruptions".
New Zealand and 21 other countries were listed as being suspended because of "unavailability of transportation".
Australia and Samoa were also among the suspended destinations.
The USPS asked customers to "please refrain from mailing items addressed to the countries listed here, until further notice".
Disrupted USPS services to New Zealand included priority mail, first class packages, airmail and surface mail.
It said military and diplomatic mail would not be affected, unless noted.
In September last year, New Zealand Post announced the USPS had increased charges for mail and parcel delivery, which meant the cost to send mail to the US would "increase considerably.
 

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