This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ OceanWaves Summit on Wednesday.
FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: What’s wrong with shipping?
DETAILS: Anthony Smith, director of market experts at FreightWaves, discusses the ongoing shipping crisis with Salvatore R. Mercogliano, an associate professor of history at Campbell University.
SPEAKER: Mercogliano hosts The Maritime History Channel podcast and What’s Going on With Shipping on YouTube. He is a frequent contributor and commentator on the intersection between commercial and military shipping.
KEY QUOTES FROM MERCOGLIANO:
About the ongoing shipping crisis: “What we’re seeing right now is a global impact. And it’s not just the global impact, but a prolonged global impact that continually seems to hit new hurdles.”
“We’re seeing port shutdowns, we’re seeing typhoons and probably the element I think that’s the most unusual right now is the absolute visualization of this issue with the anchorage off of LA/Long Beach, where people are just seeing the growing amount of fleet of vessels there and the amount of cargo that’s there. People are visualizing that on the receiving end, but they’re also seeing it on the shelves where there’s less supplies than they’ve seen in the past, and everyone’s going back to what happened in the summer of 2020 when all of a sudden there were huge shortages of key commodities of toilet paper and paper towels, for example.”
“The entire world distribution network relies on about 1.3 million seafarers to move the world’s goods. And we’re seeing issues right now with the fact that back in 2020, there were about 400,000 mariners that were sailing long over their relief days. Typically, foreign mariners employed on these vessels sail for anywhere from two to six months. You saw mariners out there for over a year on a vessel, and understand a lot of these big huge massive vessels have very small crews of 20 to 25 crew members on board that work every day. … For foreign mariners, they have no reliefs when they’re on board. One of the things we’re seeing is potential for that system to have a breakdown because if you’re unable to get off your vessel because of COVID, because of travel restrictions, because you can’t get vaccinations, that means not only are you not getting off your vessel, but then your relief is not coming out and that relief might find another job. And then when you do get off the vessel, you may not come back to shipping because you were on board a vessel for over a year. And what that means is if you lose the employees to man those vessels like we see in trucking and rail right now, that can have a catastrophic effect on the movement of goods.”