24. May 2021

Chaos strikes global shipping

Around the planet, the pandemic has disrupted trade to an extraordinary degree. At the beginning of 2020, people were trapped inside of their homes which caused online buying of all sorts of stuff and moving cargo from one continent to another has became a challenge on its own. One toilet paper manufacturer saw a 600% increase in sales over two weeks. Deliveries were crammed into shipping containers in the ports of Asia.

At the start of the pandemic, idled vessels could be seen anchored off the Singapore coast. By January 2021, as many as 30 ships were anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, waiting to pull into berth.

It has been rather an unpredictable year for seafarers (the floating workforce of 1.6 million women and men that operate the world’s fleet of 50,000 commercial cargo vessels) ever since. Theirs is a crisis of spending many months on a container ship, being stuck at work, surrounded by nothing but the vast ocean, has played out almost invisibly.

At the same time, shipping companies have been dealing with a severe shortage of capacity. In the short term, there was little they could do to increase the number of vessels in a merchant fleet. For the global shipping industry, chaos began with the tap of a million “buy now” buttons.

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Photo: pexels.com